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4.3 Copyright, Intellectual Property Rights, Licensing and Reference Management

Copyright, Intellectual property rights (IPR) and Licensing issues need consideration when integrating Reference Management into a learning environment.

When considering these issues, a risk management approach is recommended, as described by Brian Kelly and Charles Oppenheim in “Empowering Users and their Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Potential of the Social Web

Firstly there is the question of whether the references themselves have any associated IPR. The JISC Legal information on the “Transfer and Use of Bibliographic Records: Guidance on Legal Issues” is useful in this case. Although the report is aimed mainly at Libraries, and focuses on the transfer and use of records in the context of library catalogues and similar systems, the same principles are likely to apply to records collected in a reference management system.

The report states “It is unlikely that a single bibliographic record will attract any IPR”. However, “Obtaining, verifying, and presenting a set of bibliographic records can attract database rights if there has been substantial investment (which could include human, financial or technical resources).”

It is strongly recommended you consider the issue of User Generated Content (UGC), especially if you are providing services for students to create and share references. The JISC legal resource is once again extremely helpful suggesting:

“If you allow users to create such content, it is sensible to get them to give you the necessary consent to use and transfer this content, as well as ensuring that the content and records which are supplied do not breach any other legal issues”

The resource also provides model terms and conditions for UGC in respect to bibliographic records, as well as a more lightweight set of terms and conditions which you might use.

Fuller information and guidance is available in the full JISC Legal resource “Transfer and Use of Bibliographic Records: Guidance on Legal Issues” at http://www.jisclegal.ac.uk/Projects/TransferandUseofBibliographicRecords.aspx

The second area that may need consideration is the storage of full-text resources alongside references. As noted in Section 2.2, on Reference Management software, the ability to store digital objects such as PDFs with references is often part of the functionality they provide. Some Reference Management software goes further to enable the sharing of documents between groups of users, usually on a limited basis.

When supporting this type of functionality, thought should be given to what the limitations of storing and sharing digital copies of documents should be. This should be informed by a consideration of copyright and contracts with suppliers of electronic information.

The Model NESLi2 license for Journals, which is the basis for many agreements with suppliers of electronic journals to the UK HE sector contains a term which allows authorized users to save material they find electronically:

3.1 The Licensee may:

3.1.3     allow Authorised Users to:  electronically save parts of the Licensed Material;

However, alongside this permission, it also contains a restriction on sharing electronic copies of the material:

4.1          Save as provided herein, the Licensee and Authorised Users may not:

4.1.4      display or distribute any part of the Licensed Material on any electronic network, including without limitation the Internet and the World Wide Web, and any other distribution medium now in existence or hereinafter created, other than by a Secure Network unless permitted in this Agreement;

While licenses may vary, and it will be necessary to check license terms that apply for any particular online resource, this suggests that in general there will be no issue in providing the ability for individuals to store copies of documents for personal use. However, directly providing mechanisms to share documents with others increases the likelihood of some staff or students breaking the license under which the material is made available to members of the institution.

Two final areas of consideration may be in providing full-text copies of resources, or links to resources, to students from the learning environment.

Providing links to resources from the learning environment is generally not a problem. However using specific licensing conditions, some resources do restrict some activities, such as providing persistent links to material they supply from a learning environment. A high profile example of this is the Harvard Business Review (HBR), published by Harvard Business School Publishing (HBSP) and provided online by a service called EBSCO:

As you may be aware, HBSP’s license agreement stipulates that HBSP content may be used only for academic research.

To date, this has meant that you have been required to seek additional permission from HBSP [Harvard Business School Publishing] for:

  • HBR articles in course packs
  • HBR articles assigned as other course work
  • Access to HBR articles via persistent links
  • Any other use that is not academic research

Providing full-text copies of resources alongside references, for example hosting a local copy of an electronic journal article in your learning environment, will require a review of both copyright and licensing terms.

There are a number of possibilities for including this type of material in your learning environment:

  • Individual licensing terms may permit the use of digital material within a learning environment
  • UK Universities may have, or could obtain, a license from the Copyright Licensing Authority (CLA)
  • Other UK institutions (e.g. Schools, FE Colleges, Adult Education providers) may also be able to use a CLA license
  • Terms may be negotiated directly with the copyright holder.

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