London and South Eastern Copyright Community of Practice – inaugural meeting

Monique RitchieThis week’s guest post comes from Monique Ritchie, the Research Librarian and Copyright Officer at Brunel University London. She was one of 18 university copyright officers who attended the first meeting of the London and South East Copyright Community of Practice on 17th January at London School of Economics. She tells us more about this event.

Where’s a CoP when you need one? 

The answer? Probably nearer than you think! I’m now a member of my local copyright CoP (Community of Practice, that is, and nothing to do with law enforcement!) a newly formed group of HE copyright professionals in London and SE England set up by Jane Secker (LSE) and Chris Morrison (Kent). At the inaugural meeting held on 17 January 2017, Chris shared the compelling rationale behind communities of practice, a term coined by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, as an age-old means of sharing knowledge and good practice. They exist in any context you care to think think of, like parent and child groups, except they’ve simply been called different things, or perhaps haven’t even recognised as being a ‘thing!’ Many are informal while others are consciously formed networks, often to meet an organisational need.

The London and South East Copyright Community of Practice aims to support HE copyright practitioners in a useful way. So many of us work alone in our  institutions, often juggling copyright responsibilities with other roles, so it’s vital to have a forum where we can learn from each other, bringing real world issues and experiences to the table, thrash out our interpretations of copyright regulations as applied to our own variable scenarios, benefiting from multiple simultaneous perspectives – a collective brain! And if that isn’t reason enough, there was cake!

There won’t be any minutes or presentations, or shared lists of attendees – there are workshops for those. This is a closed group, open only to practising copyright advisors in HE, rather than simply those with an interest in copyright issues. It’s also further limited by geographically by necessity, as effective participation would be affected if the group is too large.

A good yarnball-of-string

We kicked off with an engaging icebreaker to introduce ourselves. With a neighbour holding a tangled ball of string (a fitting analogy for copyright), we took turns to each pull out a strand, winding it round a finger while talking about ourselves and how we got into this field until the string ran out. What was really interesting about this and perhaps a sign of how comfortable everyone was, was that many of us continued to speak after they’d run out of string! It struck me that a common thread (sorry!) in many of our stories was that we are drawn to copyright because we’re really passionate about trying to make sense of it for our colleagues, academics and students.

Even if some of us felt a bit self-conscious at the beginning, we got to know a bit more about our fellow community members than we might have done, and it really helped us bond.

Ground rules

lse-cop-copWe also discussed and mutually agreed some ground rules. Chatham House Rules apply, in that we are free to use the information shared, without identifying who or what institutions shared it. (Jane and Chris have both consented to being identified in this post as did I). It was established early on that there would be no such thing as a ‘silly’ question, that is, that any question is valid and can be asked without judgment or recrimination. Members can rely on it being a safe and confidential space where we can bring and share real world queries and guidance materials, in a supportive environment. Oh, and most importantly, I believe it was agreed that someone would bring cake to every meeting. As if talking about copyright wasn’t enough of a perk!

Then we got stuck into some everyday copyright issues, such as how we were handling third party copyright in theses. In fact there was such a detailed discussion of institutional practices, that we overran and needed to carry over some topics (lecture recording) to the next meeting. However I found it invaluable to dedicate quality time to really exploring the issues in depth, and finding out what others were doing and why.

Food for thought: third party copyright issues in theses

One area we discussed was that although copyright exceptions generally allow a student to make use of copyright material in their thesis, it isn’t always clear whether archiving it in a publicly accessible institutional repository (as required by many of our institutions’ regulations) would infringe the copyright of any third party content within it. Some HEIs require student authors to check and get clearance for third party content for archiving while others scan theses looking for third party content themselves. Clearing rights can be time consuming, and one view was that the author is best placed to do this as they would know where and what the third party content is. However another institution felt that requiring students to clear the rights put a lot of pressure on student authors. Another felt that there wasn’t cause for concern, as content within a thesis is not easily accessible or searchable, so unlikely to harm rightsowners’ interests, while others routinely redacted third party content where found. Then, someone raised the use of images for research in a thesis, as an example of a work where applying the exceptions was less clear cut. This is because reproduction of images usually means using the work in its entirety, making it less likely (according to IPO guidance) that fair dealing exceptions would apply. If a thesis is stuffed with images, applying for clearance could be hugely onerous and potentially costly for the author or institution.

We didn’t have enough time to make it through the agenda, as we could quite easily spend an entire session talking about any single issue. However, being able to do this made it easily one of the most useful meetings I’ve been to in a while. Did I mention there was cake?

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