Academic Special Collections and the Myths of Copyright


  • Teresa Auch Schultz University of Nevada, Reno
  • Dana Miller Oregon Historical Society



This study compares the copyright and use policy statements posted on the websites of the special collections of Association of Research Libraries member libraries. In spring 2018, 99 academic special collections websites were viewed, and data was collected based on the following: 1) presence and content of a general copyright statement; 2) mention of copyright owners besides the special collections; 3) presence and accuracy of statements regarding fair use and public domain; 4) policies for patron-made copies; 5) whether the special collections required its permission and/or the copyright owner’s permission to publish; 6) whether any use or license fees were charged and how clearly fees were presented. Authors analyzed whether these policies reflect copyright law or went beyond it, unnecessarily restricting the use of materials or imposing fees where rights are in question. A majority of the sites included general copyright statements, mentioned other copyright owners, and mentioned fair use, but only a minority mentioned the public domain. Just more than half restricted how patrons could use patron-made copies. About half required the special collections’ permission to publish a copy, and a fifth said any third-party owner’s permission was also required for publication.


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How to Cite

Schultz, T. A., & Miller, D. (2019). Academic Special Collections and the Myths of Copyright. Journal of Copyright in Education & Librarianship, 3(3), 1–19.