September 2012 Archives

Felony Terms of Use Violations? Lessons for all of us

Recently a new criminal indictment was filed against Aaron Swartz, for his alleged activities downloading large numbers of journal articles. These charges are mostly based on violations of use agreements for JSTOR and the MIT campus network - that is, if the use agreements had been written differently, there might not have been any basis for criminal prosecution.

This isn't an entirely new issue, but it's one that libraries have been ignoring, and that others involved in drafting terms of service may also wish to think further about. I wrote fairly extensively about this for C&RL News last fall when the first set of charges were brought against Swartz, but that article may be a little tl;dr for many. Here's some takeaways:

  • Violations of terms of service can be the basis of criminal charges in many US jursdictions.
  • When you agree to terms of service, you are exposing yourself (or those on whose behalf you're agreeing) to brand new criminal liabilities. 
  • The more restrictions or limitations a set of terms place on users' activities, the more possible criminal violations those terms are creating. 
  • Those of us who draft and agree to license terms or terms of service do not get to decide when or if a violation is worthy of criminal charges in response; that's up to prosecutors.

If you're agreeing to terms on behalf of others, you really might want to think about how realistic it is that your users will actually comply with the restrictions & limitations you're agreeing to, and what criminal risks, completely out of your or vendors' control, you're creating for them. Negotiation is an underused option, especially in libraries!

And if you're drafting terms of use for a commercial service, you really might want to think beyond the "everything and the kitchen sink" approach that imposes tons of restrictions on users. Although it's users, not your service, who may be exposed to criminal liability, do you really want the PR of having an unnecessary or unreasonable restriction from your terms used to prosecute one of your users?

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Fall Copyright Workshops Open!

The University of Minnesota Libraries offer free copyright information workshops to the UMN community. Most are aimed at faculty, but open to participation by others. RCR continuing ed credit is often available.

If these scheduled sessions are not convenient or relevant for you, we also offer sessions for research groups and departments at more convenient times or on custom topics. Please email me if you'd like to set that up.

(At least two online-only sessions will be added a little later in the semester for faculty and others who work out-state or at the Crookston, Duluth, Morris, and Rochester campuses.)

Can I Use That?: Dealing with Copyright in Everyday Life

Quotation, criticism, review, collage, parody - Copyright presents some big challenges in all of those situations! Participants in this workshop will develop an understanding of the complexities of copyright by exploring examples from visual arts, music, and video, as well as academic research and writing. Expect to think hard, discuss a little, and have fun! No direct legal advice will be provided; this workshop is informational in nature.

Primarily intended for faculty, researchers, and graduate students engaged in the scholarly writing & publishing process. Satisfies RCR continuing education awareness/discussion requirements.

Fri, 10/12/2012 - 10:00am - 12:00pm
Walter Library Rm 310

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 1:00pm - 3:00pm
Magrath Library Rm 81


Know Your Rights: Copyright Essentials for Authors and Creators

How many copyrights do you own? How long will they last? Can you post your paper online? Can someone else quote from your paper in their own? This workshop will provide a solid grounding in some of the elements of copyright law that are essential to scholarship, teaching, and research. Learn more about protections in the law for educators, and about your rights as an author or creator. Discuss and debate with your peers about some of the burning questions in the field, and enjoy exploring some entertaining and thought-provoking examples. No direct legal advice will be provided; this workshop is informational and educational in nature.

Primarily intended for faculty, researchers, and graduate students engaged in the scholarly writing & publishing process. Satisfies RCR continuing education awareness/discussion requirements.

Fri, 09/28/2012 - 1:00pm - 3:00pm
Walter Library Rm 310

Mon, 10/08/2012 - 9:30am - 11:30am
Magrath Library Rm 81

Copyright in the Classroom (and Online)

Can you show a movie in class? Can you distribute copies of a newspaper article? What are you allowed to post on your Moodle site, anyway? What about your students' work, or their online postings? This workshop focuses on copyright issues in the classroom, and in teaching online. Learn how the library can help you with electronic reserves and links to subscription materials. No direct legal advice will be provided; this workshop is informational in nature. NO RCR credit available, sorry.

Primarily intended for individuals currently teaching at the University.


Wed, 09/26/2012 - 10:00am - 12:00pm
Magrath Library Rm 81

Mon, 10/01/2012 - 10:00am - 12:00pm
Wilson Library Rm S30A

Register: http://z.umn.edu/copyrightinclassroom
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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

August 2012 is the previous archive.

October 2012 is the next archive.

I'm Nancy Sims, the Copyright Program Librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries.

Though I am a lawyer as well as a librarian, no content on this blog constitutes legal advice; if you need direct advice on your legal rights or responsibilities, please consult your own attorney. This blog represents only my own opinions and not those of my employer.

I'm @CopyrightLibn on Twitter.

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