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What Is The Role Of Copyright In Academia?

Article by: Laura Chance, Reserves Specialist

On Friday, March 21, 2014, 47 Drexel students, faculty, staff and local information science professionals filed into the URBN Center Annex for a mystifying yet pertinent current issue: copyright. As intellectual property rights and digital rights management affect digital scholarship, awareness and interest in copyright has grown significantly. Drexel University Libraries and the Drexel Student Chapter of the American Library Association hosted an event, Scholarly Communications and Copyright: Current Landscapes and Possible Futures, to spark discourse on copyright and its role in the academic community.

The event began with a talk by Kevin Smith, Scholarly Communications Officer for Duke University. Holding an MLIS and J.D., Smith is well known for his expertise on copyright and the current legal climate. His blog, Scholarly Communications @ Duke, is an important resource for librarians, faculty, and researchers interested in copyright and intellectual property rights. Smith discussed current legislation influencing intellectual property rights and academic publishing. His explanation of the Fair Use Doctrine illustrated the strengths and weakness of current copyright legislation in educational environments. Smith’s expertise and conversational explanation of complex legal issues were key to the discussion and his anecdotes were equally enlightening.

Following the talk, Drexel faculty continued the conversation on a smaller – yet equally important – scale. The faculty panel included John Cannan, research and instructional services librarian at the Legal Research Center for Drexel University’s School of Law, Ali Kenner, assistant professor in the Department of History and Politics and the Center for Science, Technology and Society at Drexel University, and Kristene Unsworth, assistant professor at the College of Computing and Informatics.

Cannan began the panel discussion with an overview of copyright and its ties to librarianship. His background in law, librarianship, and teaching provided well-rounded insight to copyright and education. Kenner, former Managing Editor of Cultural Anthropology, discussed open access publishing and shared insight on Cultural Anthropology's transition to an open access platform. Unsworth approached the podium as a self-identified philosopher and cited John Locke, rooting her discussion in critical thinking. Her philosophical approach probed deeper notions of ownership and intellectual property rights. With their three different perspectives, Cannan, Kenner, and Unsworth sparked dynamic discussion during the post-talk Q & A session.

The discussion ended on a positive and exciting note: all four speakers agreed that present copyright legislation and publishing models are in flux. The open access model shows great potential, though there is much to consider with current publishing models and intellectual property rights. Though no one can predict the future of copyright in academia, it is clear there are an array of options and room for further discussion and exploration.

Continuing the conversation on copyright, the Libraries will host Nobody Cites Your Work: Copyright, Licensing & Public Engagement a talk by Mathias Klang, PhD, associate professor at the University of Göteborg and the University of Borås . Hosted in W. W. Hagerty Library on April 7, 2014, the talk will look at the current model for the production, distribution and consumption of academic knowledge. Klang’s presentation will take its standpoint from the individual academic and look to some solutions that can be employed to increase citations, shorten class prep time and generally become a more publicly engaged academic.

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