Based on what I’ve witnessed, many nonprofit and philanthropic professionals are lax in paying attention to copyright because they assume their nonprofit status allows them to use materials any way they see fit. The problem isn’t just respecting copyright for printed materials like articles, book chapters, and images. The problem extends to showing documentaries and popular movies without attempting to acquire public performance rights. People tend to assume that since they’re showing the content without charging admission, they don’t need rights. Many also make the incorrect assumption that they can use copies of the video intended for “home use only” for a public showing.
As an information professional, I think resources on copyright permission are one of the most valuable assets a library can house. While librarians can’t offer legal advice, they can be an excellent resource for professionals who understand the importance of respecting copyright. Here are four suggestions on how you can work with your foundation librarian to lessen your organization’s copyright infringement risk:
1. If your foundation doesn’t already have one, work with your librarian to get an annual copyright license from the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). This agreement can grant the organization permission to share content from a wide variety of resources. Even if a particular work is not covered under the license, it can help reduce the time it takes to track down the copyright holder to acquire permission and use the creator’s work. While the license won’t cover everything, it is a great first step in the right direction.
2. Even if your organization does have a CCC license, make sure you check early enough to ensure that the license covers the use you are proposing. If it doesn’t, you can get a quote from the CCC to purchase the rights you need. Sometimes those quotes can be extremely expensive. By connecting with your librarian early enough, they can sometimes contact the rights holder directly and negotiate a reduced price or even obtain free permission for you to use the content.
3. If you are planning to show a movie at a community event, a convening, or even to your organization’s employees, check in with your librarian to ensure the use is covered. Sometimes librarians will buy movie copies that already have public performance rights rolled into the purchase price. If you don’t have access to one of these special versions of the video, speak with your librarian about gaining permission several weeks before you intend to show the movie. If you are planning to show a popular movie to a public audience, this is especially important. Some companies who specialize in granting rights for popular movies may require you to play a special version that they have to send to you a few days in advance. Rights to show this kind of movie to a non-admission paying audience may cost as much as $100 per day.
4. Be careful about storing files containing copyrighted work on your organization’s intranet or document repository. Sometimes people come across interesting articles that they want to share with colleagues and decide to store a copy on their organization’s intranet for all to see. Or someone may decide to store the document for viewing on a number of internal team work sites, which results in multiple copies of copyrighted work being stored in a prohibited manner.
In conclusion, if you have questions on the proper use of copyrighted material, make sure you check in with your foundation’s librarian, who can provide training and advice on how you and your team can properly use copyrighted material.
Sophia Guevara is a regular contributor to the Consortium of Foundation Libraries blog.