The director of the college print shop has come to me for copyright assistance. Our faculty often ask for photocopies of materials for distribution to students in class. She asks the faculty member if they have the appropriate permissions for making copies but is not always convinced by their answers. Is there any form she can ask faculty to sign attesting to their right to reproduce the materials that will protect the college in the case of copyright infringement? Thank you!
This question seems simple, but it actually involves some high-end concepts of business law and liability.
Most libraries, museums, theaters, and other units within large institutions are actually part of the same entity. In other words, although they may have a distinct identity within their institution (“The Michael Library” “The Peter Museum” or “the Catherine Gym”), there is only one actual legal entity (“Romanov College”).
Many people find these niceties hard to grasp, but here is why it is important: in this scenario, the single entity (the college) includes the on-campus copy shop. This means that what the shop does, the entity does…including alleged infringement.
This same unity generally applies to employees, too. In a body of law called “Master and Servant,” if an employee is performing a task related to their job, and not deliberately violating employer policy or the law, for purposes of the legal system, the employee’s actions will generally be imputed to the institution.
This is why institutions are best served in this area by educating their employees about copyright, and documenting the employees good-faith efforts to abide by the law (it is also why many HR manuals have warnings about the consequences of not following policy: it limits the institution’s ability to protect you).
This puts lot of pressure on the employees who staffing the in-house copy shop. What are their responsibilities? Do they need to educate their co-workers on copyright risk? Are they expected to protect the entire college? Each institution has different policies and job descriptions that answer those questions differently.
That said, is there a simple approach that can help with this? Yes. For the in-house copy shop (NOT for an on-campus contractor), below is a framework to address copyright priorities with diplomacy, tact, and helpfulness. It is designed to be used with an institution’s “Fair Use Assessment” form, and to route people to the person responsible for permissions at your institution.
NOTE: All that said, any copyright-related form not custom-designed for your organization should be reviewed for cohesion and consistency with other institutional policies, including those in the employee manual. Never use any copyright-related form without considering your institution’s unique needs and approach to copyright and liability! If your institution has an in-house lawyer, compliance officer, risk manager, or insurance carrier, make sure they are part of finalizing any such form or solution.
[INSTITUTION NAME] COPY SHOP COPYRIGHT HELPER
Hello! Thank you for coming to the [INSTITUTION NAME] copy shop to arrange duplication of your class materials.
As an instructor who generates your own copyright-protected material, you know the value of copyrights to others, and you know there are penalties for improper, unauthorized duplication.
Please follow the process below. When you check “yes” to 1 or 3, we are happy to assist you with your copies!
1. Do you have written permission from the copyright holder or their agent to make copies?
If “yes,” attach the permission, and let’s get copying!
If “no,” please move to question 2.
2. Do you have verbal permission from the copyright holder or their agent to make copies?
If “yes,” please confirm the permission in writing, return to us and check “yes,” above, and we’ll get right on this for you!
If “no,” please move to question 3.
3. Do you regard this copy as a fair use?
If “yes,” please fill out the attached [INSTITUTION NAME] fair use assessment form, and we’ll get your copies made!
If “no,” or “I don’t know,” please move to question #4.
4. Do you find this process frustrating and need help arranging permission to use this material, or more input on fair use?
If “yes,” please see XXXX at OFFICE LOCATION, who assists with permissions at INSTITUTION NAME. You can also call them at NUMBER or reach them at EMAIL. We hope to see you again soon!
MATERIALS (Title, number of pages):_______________________________
 This is one of the reasons many institutions opt to host a separate company for on-campus duplication services.
 I know! The law needs to move on. Perhaps “Captain” and “team member” can replace this.
 That said, never assume that is the case! Every allegation of liability must be carefully reviewed by a lawyer, as there are many exceptions and precise formulas that control such things.
 Demonstrable, good-faith effort to abide by the law can actually limit damages when copyright infringement is attributable to a not-for-profit education institution.
 If you don’t have either or one of these, share this RAQ with the decision-maker at your institution who could make that happen. Both the form, and a person who can facilitate permissions, are worthwhile risk management investments.