Copyfraud and Classroom
Performance Rights:
Two Common Bogus
Copyright Claims
Brandon Butler, Director of Public Policy Initiatives, ARL
Introduction: Copyright
Npublishers,Misrepresenting
egotiating copyright law can be challenging even when basic
facts are not in doubt. It becomes unnecessarily difficult when
distributors, and even some libraries misrepresent
basic facts: which works are under copyright, and which rights a library
must purchase to support teaching and learning. Unfortunately such
misrepresentations are widespread. This article will describe two common
misrepresentations about copyright law: “copyfraud” and “public
performance rights” for classroom uses.
Two important limitations to the copyright monopoly are its limited
duration1 and the exception for classroom performance and display of
copyrighted materials.2 The limited duration of copyright ensures that once
authors have had a reasonable time (and then some) to exploit their creations,
works will rise into the public domain and be set free to circulate without
copyright restrictions. The classroom performance exception frees teachers to
screen films and other works based on pedagogical goals rather than legal
technicalities. In addition to reducing the technical and economic barriers to
effective teaching, the classroom exception ensures that rights holders cannot
use copyright as a tool for censorship, e.g., by withholding permission to use
works in courses where the filmmaker’s point of view is criticized.
Two varieties of misrepresentation are undermining these important features
of the law. First, publishers and other distributors of public domain materials are
using copyright notices that suggest falsely that public domain materials are in
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SEPTEMBER 2011 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC