[Athen] Copyright law woes

Kate Deibel kndeibel at syr.edu
Mon Jun 15 08:17:17 PDT 2020

Librarian here, but not one specializing in copyright law.

The Association of Research Libraries released a great white paper on the intersection of legal aspects of fair use, copyright, and accessibility (PDF)<https://www.arl.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/2019.07.15-white-paper-law-and-accessible-texts.pdf>. One of the main interpretations that come from this paper is that the current accessibility law precedents give a lot of options when accessibility is the issue. The biggest issue is in regard to sharing the remediated copies, which ultimately seems to be at the publisher's discretion.

I concur with George that since you could legitimately get a copy of the ebook from the library via interlibrary loan, grabbing the necessary set of pages should be within legal means. Eventually, the instructor should, via fair use doctrine, inquire about permissions to use the materials on a long term basis.

I would caution against assuming that e-book excerpt equals accessible PDF. My experience is that most ebooks may have accessible text but that's it. Tables, images, and other markup may be quite bad if the originating content is a PDF. DRM protected ebooks in particular are headaches since most publishers only test for access by popular screen readers but not other reading tools like Read&Write or other text-to-speech tools. It's weird to have a document that can be read by JAWS but not a lighter weight reader tool. Fortunately, DRM stripping for accessibility needs is permitted by the Chafee amendment in the United States (as covered in the aforementioned white paper).

I would still talk with your library and legal counsel for more insight. Do share that white paper, though.

Katherine (Kate) Deibel | PhD
Inclusion & Accessibility Librarian
Syracuse University Libraries
T 315.443.7178
kndeibel at syr.edu<mailto:kndeibel at syr.edu>
222 Waverly Ave., Syracuse, NY 13244
Syracuse University

From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu> On Behalf Of kerscher at montana.com
Sent: Saturday, June 13, 2020 10:23 AM
To: 'Access Technology Higher Education Network' <athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Athen] Copyright law woes

Dear Debee,

I am not a lawyer and do not give copyright advice. However, whatever gave the professor the right to grab a few pages from a title, I would guess the fair use doctrine, would also give the right to copy and paste the same amount from a digital version, IMO (non-legal).
You could certainly send a link to the professor of the digital version and have him or her grab it from that version, and of course, the professor must have the legal right to the digital version either by purchasing it or getting it from the library.

Agree this is a real pain and it would be far better to work from the digital version of content for these purposes.


From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu>> On Behalf Of Deborah Armstrong
Sent: Friday, June 12, 2020 5:08 PM
To: Access Technology Higher Education Network <athen-list at u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list at u.washington.edu>>
Subject: [Athen] Copyright law woes

So here's a typical scenario: instructor posts a reading assignment on Canvas today that's due by middle of next week. The instructor grabbed a literature anthology off her shelf at home, scanned a few pages and posted a PDF.

There's no time for the poor student to get me the material to convert to an alternate format. I just got a panicked email from a student in just such a situation.I told her to have the instructor either email me the scan or email me the source information.

The adjunct faculty is especially bad at this; instead of having all their materials ready at the start of the quarter they randomly post things on canvas as the due dates come up.

Now if it wasn't for copyright law, I'd simply send the ebook of the entire Norton anthology of literature to the offending instructor, tell them to lift the relevant readings from the ebook and post their own accessible copies.

But copyright law actually prevents me from doing this.

And most instructors don't have the book so they either have to type it in by hand or post a picture of a page.

We can scream as much as we like about accessible content but no instructor wants to spend the extra hours typing things in.

And it is impossible it seems to get them to stick to just one textbook and assign all their readings from there.

I wish we could either force them to stick with one book instead of pulling readings from hither and yon or force legal entities to disregard copyright!

We have all this training on how to create accessible content but the elephant in the room is that they ***DON'T*** create their own content. They pull it from everywhere!


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