Know your (copy)rights

Thursday, April 23 marks World Book and Copyright Day. The international event was established by UNESCO in 1995 to celebrate books and authors, promote literacy, and raise awareness about copyright.

At U of T, students will be working away in the stacks with their noses, rather appropriately, buried deep in their textbooks on this day. Downstairs at Robarts, a public reading of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes– all 104,333 words of it –  will be taking place all day long. The U of T Libraries will also digitize a book new to the public domain based on the results of a social media contest that’s ongoing throughout the week – check out the hashtag #UofTBookBattle to cast your vote.

The first edition of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Via Wikimedia Commons.
The first edition of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. Via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s easy to get on board with a celebration of books – but what about copyright?

Copyright at U of T has changed in the last couple of years. Previously, the university had an agreement with Access Copyright, an organization that acted as a liaison between the school and copyright holders, like authors and publishers. Fees for students were high, but copyright regulations in Canada have opened up in recent years and open access material is increasingly available. So, in early 2014, citing these reasons, the university opted out of their agreement with the group to take on copyright matters internally. The university hired on Bobby Glushko, a copyright librarian, to run what is now the University of Toronto Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office (SCCO).

The main group of people who use this office at the university are faculty members – professors who want to include materials in their course packs, for example. But, as Glushko puts its, “The SCCO is here for everyone in the U of T community, not just faculty.” Students are welcome to visit the office with any concerns.

“Last year, we helped over 20 grad students with questions relating to their thesis work, and its not just graduate students who he help,” he says, adding, “we helped several undergraduates who had questions on assignments or publications.”

The SCCO also helps students by helping professors – in the fall semester last year, for example, they worked with instructors to reduce the costs of coursepacks using open access materials and fair dealing, saving students $100,000 in coursepack costs.

As students, copyright impacts us through issues of plagiarism, citation, access to materials, and user rights.

Good-to-know copyright lingo. Copyrighted materials: Copyright refers to the right to copy - according to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, “the sole right to produce or reproduce a work of a substantial part of it in any form.” Copyright generally applies for the duration of the lifetime of the author of the material until fifty years after their death. It then becomes… Public domain: Anything in the public domain is intellectual property where the copyright has expired or been forfeited. These days, a lot of people are doing the latter and making their material... Open access: This refers to content, often scholarly research, that is published online without restrictions to access. There are varying degrees of open access with different user’s rights. These are categorized through Creative Commons licenses.  Fair dealing: Fair dealing is a defense to allegations of copyright infringement. The use of the material must be fair, and must be (in Canada) for purposes of research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism or review, or news reporting.
Good-to-know copyright lingo.

When you’re using materials through the U of T libraries catalogue, you can check on the copyright by looking at the “Permitted Uses.” This will show you a list of ways you can or can’t use the material – for example, you may be allowed to link to a source, but not allowed to print and distribute it.

Glushko advises: “Generally with student work, for in class assignments and other course work, if it’s not an academic integrity issue, it’s not a copyright issue.”

Pay attention to permissions, cite carefully, and don’t plagiarize. If you’re ever uncertain about permissions, talk to a librarian. You can also be in touch with the SCCO at – or, they’re on twitter and instagram!

There’s a ton of great open content that you can find online. U of T hosts lots of fascinating material through its online special digital collections, where you can look through manuscript fragments, a collection on the discovery of insulin, and over 200,000 public domain books digitized right here at U of T. TSpace is an open access repository for scholarly work from U of T. It’s a great resource to check out research happening on campus. Glushko recommends The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library for their “AMAZING work in the public domain.” You can follow them on instagram.

Flowers for spring: Lysimachia quadrifolia by Agnes Chamberlain. via Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. Some of their special collections are available on Flickr!
Creative Commons flowers for spring: Lysimachia quadrifolia by Agnes Chamberlain. via Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. Some of their special collections are available on their Flickr page!

Given the growing access to materials like these online, there’s a lot of attention on intellectual property and copyright issues right now. More and more information is available on the web everyday. U of T offers you access online, through the libraries, to collections, peer-reviewed journals, movies, databases, and full books. Be mindful of permissions, but also be sure to take advantage of the heaps of knowledge you’re afforded through the university. Go to Robarts on Thursday and listen to the rousing exploits of Sherlock Holmes in the public domain – and read along on the internet archive, if you’re so inclined. The access we have to books, art, and research is certainly something worth celebrating. Happy World Book and Copyright Day, U of T!

What are you reading, U of T (besides, of course, textbooks)? Let me know in the comments or on twitter at @lifeatuoft.

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