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Session 7: Reformatting and Digitization


fair use & copyright

Another way to reduce the risk of legal action (whether over copyright or other legal issues such as privacy) is to have a system in place that makes it easy for anyone with a question or concern about your project to contact you. This system can be as simple as a footer on any public-facing webpage welcoming members of the public to contact you with "any information [they] may have about the collection," and providing an email address that is checked regularly by someone involved in the project.

This strategy is modeled on the "notice and takedown" requirements that sites like YouTube must meet in order to avoid being liable for user-submitted infringing content, but with an important modification: it is not necessary (or advisable) that you commit up front that you will take down any content that raises a complaint. After all, if you are within your fair use rights, there is no legal requirement that you accommodate an unhappy rights holder. It is important not to promise something (a take down) that you may decide is neither necessary nor the right thing to do.

But it can be extremely useful in many non-legal ways to keep lines of communication open, and to set a tone of open-minded information sharing rather than adversarial demands. Many institutions have reported receiving helpful information and even additional material for collections when authors or heirs step forward, even if the initial contact is an expression of concern or reservation about the library's activities. The bottom line is that it never hurts, and will often help to be open to contact from interested members of the public.