RAQs: Recently Asked Questions

Topic: Providing copies of newspaper puzzles for patrons - 8/1/2017
MEMBER QUESTION Patrons have suggested we provide photocopies of the daily crossword puzzles out...
Posted: Tuesday, August 1, 2017 Permalink

MEMBER QUESTION

MEMBER QUESTION

Patrons have suggested we provide photocopies of the daily crossword puzzles out of the newspaper because of other patrons doing the puzzle out of the library's current newspaper, thus ruining it for everyone else. We are told that some libraries provide this service, but we are concerned about the legality. Can you please advise us?

Topic: Providing copies of newspaper puzzles for patrons
Date Submitted: July 28, 2017

WNYLRC ATTORNEY'S RESPONSE

WNYLRC ATTORNEY’S RESPONSE

I would say, “This is quite the puzzle,” but fortunately, Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Code makes this an easily solved dilemma.

But first, I have to commend you for being cautious, since the situation is absolutely governed by copyright.  The puzzles, jumbles and other games in newspapers are what newspaper syndicates call “features.”  In a 1970 case[1], a "feature" was described as: “a literary or artistic creation prepared for publication in newspapers.” The court recited: “Comic strips are features; crossword puzzles are features; gossip columns are features; columns of information and opinion…are features [emphasis added].”  So in fact, your situation brings what we could call a “double copyright” concern: both the newspaper, and the crossword feature itself, can be infringed. 

However, per Section 108, your library is allowed to make one copy of a published article from a newspaper, so long as:

  • The copy becomes the property of the user, whose use is private and not for commercial gain;
  • There is a copyright notice on the copy (most crosswords already have this)
  • Your library has the required postings about duplication, and meets the usual Section 108 requirements (see   WNYLRC’s new  Section 108 Resources for a complete list).
  • Your staff does not become aware or have “substantial reason to believe” that it is “engaging in the related or concerted reproduction or distribution of multiple copies.”  (17 U.S.C. 108 (g)(1))[2]

How can this solution play out in a busy library? I advise making one copy as you describe, and making it available with a notice such as:

As a courtesy to fellow patrons, please let staff know if you would like a copy of the crossword.  The original version in the newspaper should not be written on.” 

Since Section 108[3] is the key to making the copy, and it requires that the copy be made for a patron, I advise against making several copies in advance.  However, to make sure the newspaper stays accessible throughout the day, making a temporary master copy to work from is okay….so long as those copies aren’t later compiled/used for something that goes beyond 108’s reach.

Hopefully, this will create satisfied crossword aficionados, serene newspaper readers, and peace in the periodical section!

[1] United States v. Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, Inc.

[2] In other words…if it becomes clear that the local crossword club is using your library to make the copies for its annual competition, the copying is no longer allowed.

[3] It is worth noting that the Library of Congress considers crossword puzzles to be “games” that are to be registered as “textual works,” since Section 108 does not extend to pictorial or graphic works.

 

Tags: Copyright, Newspapers, Photocopies

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