Models for Copyright Education in Information Literacy

The opening panel on copyright literacy. Photo by Lisa Hinchliffe

We were at the IFLA WLIC in Wroclaw, Poland last week where the IFLA Information Literacy Section Committee and the IFLA Copyright and other Legal Matters Committee organised an off-site meeting on Wednesday 23rd August entitled Models of Copyright Education in Information Literacy Programs. When I heard about this event I knew I had to be there – copyright and information literacy are my two research interests, and have been for many years before Chris and I undertook the UK Copyright Literacy Survey. This conference was an exciting opportunity for us both to meet international colleagues working in the field of copyright education, to learn about the models and strategies from around the world and to share the experiences of our research.

We were absolutely thrilled to be invited to be part of the opening panel at the conference, discussing the findings from the International Copyright Literacy Survey. Early on in the discussions about this event we agreed we should be joined by Inga-Lill Nilsson from Karlstad University who has been working on embedding copyright literacy in Sweden. It was great to get together members of the international team including Serap Kerbanoglu from Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey, Tania Todorova from University of Library Studies and Information Technologies, Sofia, Bulgaria, Angela Repanovici from Transilvania University, Brasov, Romania, Ane Landoy from University of Bergen, Norway and Alicia Aria Coello from Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain. Alicia, Tania and Angela sadly couldn’t be there in Poland but contributed to the paper in advance. We have made our slides available from the panel on Slideshare. We briefly gave an overview of the high level findings from the survey, but concentrated on asking panel members to reflect on the efforts to embed copyright literacy in their country and share strategies that were working. What emerged was a real need for more education for librarians about copyright matters in all countries around the world. However, it isn’t about turning librarians into lawyers and teaching them everything about copyright. Copyright education needs to be relevant to the wider work of librarians, and part of information literacy initiatives.


The event was really well organised, so congratulations to Lisa Hinchliffe from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Tomas Lipinski from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee  and Janice T. Pilch at Rutgers University for their hard work. The University of Lower Silesia were an excellent host institution and we’d like to thank Ewa Rozkosz, Director of the Scientific Information Centre who took Chris and I on a brief tour of Wroclaw after the conference. Sheila Webber from the University of Sheffield has written three blog posts on themes from the day including professional education for librarians, librarians teaching faculty and students and her final post on copyright literacy in higher education. Sadly she missed our opening panel, but her three posts give an excellent account of the day. So rather than run through the presentations from the day, this is going to be the first of several blog posts we’ll write and I’d like to start by reflecting on a few themes that I think were particularly significant from the conference.

Firstly, the day started by considering why we might need to develop copyright education in the first place – what the motivations are for this and why knowing about copyright might be particularly important for librarians today. Themes such as technology, international efforts to reform copyright law and the information and mis-information that circulates about copyright matters were all mentioned.

Secondly many of the speakers, including our panel, focused on the capabilities and qualifications of librarians to teach in the field of copyright. Most librarians aren’t and don’t need to be lawyers, but are new professionals learning enough about copyright to prepare them for their professional lives? Several papers examined how much copyright content features in LIS programmes around the world and the short answer was not enough, and not quite in the right way.

Thirdly there were some wonderful examples of copyright education in practice, teaching copyright both to faculty / academics and to students; why this might be important and how to do this effectively and creatively. The key thing is to ensure it’s relevant to the needs of the audience and taught in an engaging way. We must never forget that not everyone thinks copyright is an exciting subject, and it was heartening to see how our resources such as Copyright the Card Game and the Publishing Trap generated a lot of interest from the international delegates.

Finally, the way that copyright education relates to other aspects of information literacy was also another underlying theme at the conference. And there was a growing recognition that the way in which you teach people about copyright is extremely important. There is a real value in using critical approaches, or what Chris and I have started to call ‘critical copyright literacy’, recognising that approaches to copyright education are never neutral. Another important question that occurred to me was how to develop those librarians already in the profession who need to provide copyright education  – and the role of the institutional copyright officer or copyright librarian. Since these discussions I am reflecting on whether the term officer or librarian is actually appropriate and if the copyright person should be a copyright educator?

Chris and I are really excited about continuing the conversation with all the people we met at the IFLA WLIC, with librarians from around the world and international organisations such as EIFL and EBLIDA and IFLA themselves. We think there are huge advantages to fostering and developing the international copyright literacy community. One of our first thoughts was whether to try and host a UK event next spring, perhaps as part of the LILAC Conference. It’s just an idea at this stage, but what was clear is that approaching copyright education as part of information literacy has many advantages both to librarians and to those they support. So watch this space, more ideas and blog posts coming soon!

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