Copyrights, licensing and other rights in libraries

Libraries, publishers and users are the main stakeholders in libraries. Libraries need to protect the interests of both users and publishers. Universal access to information is one of the important human rights. Professor (Dr.) Ramesh C. Gaur shares more on the copyrights, licensing and other rights in libraries.


Intellectual property (IP) generally refers to any creation of the human mind, such as discoveries, inventions; any type of literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in businesses etc. To protect the time, effort, and creativity of the works of a creator, and also to take care of their commercial interests, certain rights have been given to creators under some laws that need to be followed. There is a wide range of IPRs such as Copyrights, Patents, Trade Mark, and Trade Design etc.

IP in libraries…

After the Internet Revolution, E-Resources, such as EBooks, E-Journals, Online Databases, Video Journals, and E-Newspapers etc., are almost 90 % of total acquisitions in libraries. Open Access Resources and Open Educational Resources are also now considered as an important part of Library Collections. Research Gate, Academia, Faculty 1000, YouTube and many more such free information e-resources also need the attention of libraries to educate users about the various type of rights in regards to the use of all such social media platforms. Besides copyrights, libraries also need to fulfil all terms and conditions as per license agreements signed with different publishers of these e-Resources. Libraries also need to create awareness about various Research and Publication Ethics- Fabrication, Falsification and Plagiarism. So, libraries have to play a vital role in protecting the interests of both authors as well as publishers. Simultaneously they have to fulfil all information needs of its clientele.

Fair use of copyrighted work…

It is pertinent to mention here that not every use of a copyrighted work is an infringement of copyright. There are certain exceptions in copyright laws and Fair Use is one of the exception that permits limited use of copyrighted material without seeking permission from the rights holder. Fair use may include criticism/parody, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. The following parameters may be used to evaluate or measure fair use:

  • The purpose and nature of the use, including whether such use is for commercial or for academic and research purposes;
  • The type of the copyrighted work;
  • The quantity and voluminousness of the copyrighted material used;
  • The impact of the materials used on the future or current market for or cost of the copyrighted work

Copyright is about protecting the rights of the creator of information. It is to protect the unauthorized or unlicensed copying of a work subject to the copyright laws of a country. Libraries need to ensure protecting the Copyrights especially in case of photocopying or scanning of library print or non-print material. Besides, libraries also need to create awareness about various copyright exceptions. For example, any document can be digitized for access for persons with visual impairment or print disabled without seeking permission of the copyright holder.

Licensing in libraries…

Licensing in libraries deals with issues such as access, download, reuse, redistribution and systematic downloading concerning eresources subscribed by a library. Besides, it also contains issues such as Interlibrary lending, single-user access or multi-user access, subscription or perpetual, backfile access and platform fee etc. In this regard, libraries, sign a license agreement /contract with publishers/vendors of all digital resources and need to ensure implementation of terms and conditions as agreed. Generally, such licensing terms and conditions are better controlled as publishers can monitor access and use through their servers.

During the pandemic, everyone was dependent on online resources as libraries were closed. In such a situation, libraries have done their best in providing services to their clientele. Many publishers have also played an important role in opening up free access to their collections. However, I strongly believe that we should have some special copyright exceptions during such pandemic like situations.

On Creative Common Licenses…

Libraries also need to play an important role in creating awareness about Creative Common Licenses. Creative Commons (CC) is an international non-profit organization that has created licenses for creators for open access to various intellectual resources. These licenses allow the creator to permit others to use the work, or redistribute, or reuse individually or commercially as per terms and conditions defined in these Creative Common Licences.

Libraries also need to educate users about the resources available under public domain. The Public Domain information/material consists of either out of copyrights material or no copyrights material on which no exclusive intellectual property rights apply. It includes material for that copyrights may have expired, been forfeited, expressly waived, or may be inapplicable. For example, the works of Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi, or any author or creator of work who has died 60+ years from now or the material created before 1914 as India does not have any copyrights law before it. Most of the documentary heritage such as manuscripts, rare books, and rare archival material is out of copyright.

Creating awareness…

Libraries also need to create awareness about various research misconducts such as fabrication, falsification and plagiarism etc. Plagiarism is using someone else’s text or ideas without giving proper citation to the creator of that source. Plagiarism is a violation of academic norms and is a punishable offence as per rules laid down by professional bodies/controlling bodies.

Libraries, publishers and users are the main stakeholders in libraries. Libraries need to protect the interests of both users and publishers. Universal access to information is one of the important human rights. Therefore, the publishers need to understand that the implementation of copyrights should have some variations in the case of information-rich and information-poor. Migration from print to digital has its merits and demerits. In a country like India, a large population depends on libraries only. The pricing models of many of the commercial publishers, particularly in regards to Online Databases, EBooks and EJournals are not suitable to most of the libraries in poor countries and may need to be reviewed. Same time libraries also need to understand that publishers also have their commercial interests. So country-specific level playing field may be desirable. Currently, both libraries and publishers are passing through a very challenging time. It is also true that one cannot survive without others as they complement each other. So it is important to forge a collaborative partnership to benefit each other.

Professor (Dr.) Ramesh C. Gaur, PhD. Fulbright Scholar (Virginia Tech, USA) is Dean & Director (Lib&Inf.)/ Head – Kala Nidhi Division, Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA), Ministry of Culture, GOI; and Officer on Special Duty ( OSD) Indian Institute of Heritage, Ministry of Culture, GOI. He is also Member of IAC-UNESCO Memory of the world, UNESCO Global Task Force on Indigenous Languages, Chair IFLA Advisory Committee on Cultural Heritage RSCAO and ARL Section, NDLTD Board of Directors, USA, International Consultative Committee on Digital Dunhuang Project, China.

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