Digitizing, Licensing and Fair Use
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For many years visual resources collections have operated within university departments to meet faculty image needs. The delivery medium has evolved from lantern slides, to 35mm slides—still in use at some institutions—to digital images. With the advent of digital media, collection managers are faced with the imperative to provide access to digital assets by building sustainable digital collections that have relevance at an institutional level. Historically, departmental collections afforded access to a limited audience in part because tight control needed to be exerted over the slides as objects since only one user at a time could possess a given slide. Strict circulation policies served to alleviate the worries of faculty users who wanted to be assured they would—with some certainty—find the slides in the proper drawer when it came time to gather materials for their lectures. Controlled access to slides also helped address copyright concerns related to collections that were built in part through copy work (the practice of shooting images from books or journals) and adding these images to the collection as allowed by the fair use factors outlined in the U.S. Copyright act. In the digital age the model for image use has shifted since a multitude of users can access the same digital image simultaneously. Issues of control over the disposition of the physical object have shifted from concern over a slide being filed in its drawer and available for use by a given faculty member to a digital file’s location on a server and the mechanism in place to ensure its sustainability as a digital asset over time. Further, because of cost of creating, maintaining, and licensing digital content is substantial, departmental units and their collections are becoming part of a bigger digital content picture at university campuses. And, given the digital paradigm shift, sensitivity to how digital collections grow under copyright’s fair use umbrella is an important aspect of the larger picture.
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