Guide to copyright and digitization

Cornell University Library Publishes New Digitization Manual, press release, October 29, 2009.

How can cultural heritage institutions legally use the Internet to improve public access to the rich collections they hold?

Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for Digitization for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, a new book by published today by Cornell University Library, can help professionals at these institutions answer that question.

Based on a well-received Australian manual written by Emily Hudson and Andrew T. Kenyon of the University of Melbourne, the book has been developed by Cornell University Library’s senior policy advisor Peter B. Hirtle, along with Hudson and Kenyon, to conform to American law and practice.

The development of new digital technologies has led to fundamental changes in the ways that cultural institutions fulfill their public missions of access, preservation, research, and education. Many institutions are developing publicly accessible Web sites that allow users to visit online exhibitions, search collection databases, access images of collection items, and in some cases create their own digital content. Digitization, however, also raises the possibility of copyright infringement. It is imperative that staff in libraries, archives, and museums understand fundamental copyright principles and how institutional procedures can be affected by the law.

Copyright and Cultural Institutions was written to assist understanding and compliance with copyright law. It addresses the basics of copyright law and the exclusive rights of the copyright owner, the major exemptions used by cultural heritage institutions, and stresses the importance of “risk assessment” when conducting any digitization project. Case studies on digitizing oral histories and student work are also included. …

As an experiment in openaccess publishing, the Library has made the work available in two formats. Print copies of the work are available from CreateSpace, an Amazon subsidiary. In addition, the entire text is available as a free download through eCommons, Cornell University’s institutional repository, and from SSRN.com, which already distributes the Australian guidelines. …