Over the past year, the University of Michigan Library has shown itself to be particularly sensible in regards to open content licensing, the public domain, and issues of copyright in the digital age. The U-M Library has integrated public domain book machines, adopted CC licensing for their content, and independently had their Copyright Specialist, Molly Kleinman, articulate the importance of proper attribution in using CC licenses. We recently caught up with Molly to learn more about these efforts – primarily how they came to be and the results they have yielded – as well as discuss CC’s place in educational institutions at large and how CC and Fair Use interact in the academic sphere.
What is your role at the University of Michigan Library? How does the University Library interact with the rest of the University?
I’m the University Library’s copyright specialist. I provide copyright and publishing assistance for faculty, students, researchers, staff, and librarians throughout the University of Michigan, and occasionally to the community at large. I handle questions on both sides of the copyright universe: people come to me as users of copyrighted works and also as creators with concerns about their own rights. At a university just about everybody is both a user and a creator, so I think it’s important to promote a balanced perspective on copyright. A big part of my job is teaching workshops and providing one-on-one consultations about copyright and scholarly publishing basics. I work with librarians all over campus to raise awareness about topics like fair use, Open Access, and author rights. I also support a number of the Library’s activities, including our institutional repository Deep Blue, the Scholarly Publishing Office, and Special Collections exhibits. People always ask if I’m an attorney… I’m not. I’m a librarian by training, and have a background in publishing. A law degree is useful when dealing with copyright, and it’s certainly necessary when you’re providing legal advice, but in many other situations it’s not essential. Copyright is messy and confusing and it makes a lot of people nervous and scared. Approaching these issues as a librarian allows me to explain things in “human readable” language instead of legalese. My goal is to demystify the law and empower students and faculty to advocate for their rights as both users and creators.