Guest post written by Treasa Bane
Sara Benson—lawyer, librarian, and assistant professor—is UIUC’s secret weapon. Within the Scholarly Communications and Publishing department, she provides consultations, workshops, lectures, and guides concerning copyright. As research methods and means of accessing reliable information rapidly change, copyright grows more complex. Every institution needs an intermediary between information producers and consumers to reliably and accurately educate others about the ethical use of copyrighted materials, and UIUC has one: Sara Benson.
As a library science student, I’m aware of Sara’s vital role at our university, but most other UIUC students in other disciplines may not be. Combining the worlds of copyright and librarianship results in a set of service skills applicable for all disciplines that academics can and should use. A student should not struggle through the process of building his or her ideas for a project, nor should new professors and researchers get all the way to the stage of publishing their work and not know how to negotiate a contract.
If you are an author, educator, researcher, student, or community member (Sara doesn’t close her doors to anyone not affiliated with UIUC), and you cannot find the time the attend one of Sara’s workshops or read one of her LibGuides in its entirety, but you’re overwhelmed with what you need to learn about navigating copyright, you should start with Sara’s YouTube Channel. Sara’s YouTube channel is an excellent supplement to her services and is an introduction to what she offers UIUC.
Warning: Sara’s videos might make you more interested in law-related material than expected. Sara’s videos are instructional, digestible, and engaging and conversational. While your understanding of copyright increases, you will not find yourself bored by legalese. Her first video on her YouTube channel defines copyright and the requirements in order to own it, the rights attached to it, and then how those rights are protected while also making a work available. While this particular video may be more appropriate for students and beginners, new authors might also want to review what rights apply to their work.
As someone who attended her fair use workshop, I found that her ten-minute Fair Use video manages to cover the most important aspects of Fair Use about as well as a full-length workshop. The “Do You Know Your Fair Use Rights?” video demonstrates how to weigh the four factors of fair use—for example, the more commercial a project is, the less likely it is to be in fair use, but the more educational it is, the more likely it is to be in fair use. To demonstrate transformative use, she explains the differences between parody and satire—an important and also complicated factor to determine in court cases. In the end, she summarizes her most important point that fair use is a right. Even if you ask for permission to use something and your request is declined, you can still use it if it’s sufficiently transformative—whether it’s for commercial use or you make copies or you use an entire work. Again, the nice thing about Sara’s guides are that they apply to anyone, but her fellow librarians might find this a particularly succinct resource to use or point to when advising patrons.
Her “1923-1978 and public domain” video navigates the copyright challenges brought on during this period, which entails how the copyright symbol was used, giving reasonable notice of copyright protection, and registration and renewal at the copyright office. Not only does she chart what’s in the public domain herself based on these criteria, but she directs you to cheat sheets and databases, such as the Stanford Copyright Renewal Database, and shows you how to navigate within and between them. She ends by pointing to one of her LibGuides called Copyright Reference Guide.
Ethical practice plays a huge role when you’re producing and sharing your work, whether it’s working with records, computer programs, publications, media, or chemical or biological materials. Check out Sara’s YouTube Channel—while new, she’s quickly adding videos—or reach out to Sara herself in order to build your confidence by better understanding Creative Commons licensing, international markets, university policies, orphan works, the TEACH Act, patents, registered and unregistered copyright, and more.