Copyright expertise: from team onboarding to copyright instruction

Mathilde with Manon’s avatar

This week’s guest blog post is by Mathilde Panes and Manon Velasco, from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. They recently presented at LILAC 2019 and also at the Icepops conference in Edinburgh. Manon is the Multipurpose Librarian at EPFL where she is currently in charge of e-book collections, she is also involved with providing data curation, training and support for EPFL’s institutional repository. On top of that, she is a member of the copyright team and is of course involved with copyright literacy. She holds a Master’s in Literature and a DUT Information-Communication “Métiers du livre et du patrimoine” from the University of Grenoble. Her professional interests include revolutionizing the relationship with publishers, supporting researchers in opening their research and playful learning applied to copyright literacy education.

Mathilde Panes (@railyards) is the Teaching Librarian, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. She has worked as a librarian in various scientific institutions, supporting students and researchers in developing their skills around information retrieval and appraisal, scholarly communication and digital literacy. She holds a MSc in Business Administration and Information systems from the University of Applied Science and Arts Western Switzerland and a BSc in Information Science from the Geneva School of Business Administration. Her professional interests include the expansion of the areas covered by information literacy, and the role of librarians in academia and innovative pedagogy. They tell us….

“My professor told me to add a bibliography to my paper, how can I do this?” is one of the questions the EPFL Library team has to answer the most. At Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the most obvious training needs around copyright were linked to citation and plagiarism. After years of handling such queries, the Teaching team at EPFL Library developed advanced skills and courses for both students and researchers’ community on these topics. The dedicated training offer was developed more than a decade ago.


However, the needs of the EPFL community evolved, around issues such as reading copyright agreements, reusing content, changes in copyright laws, etc. As the EFPL Library had become the go-to for all copyright questions, a refresh of our offer was needed. Our situation was tricky as there was no colleague with a background in law and because copyright literacy is often not included in Library and Information Science education’s curriculum (Frederiksen 2016). However, two librarians were involved in the copyright law revision in 2016 and acquired precious knowledge. In this context, the head of services at the Library decided to create an actual copyright team with four members!


This lead us to refine who would be in charge of copyright expertise and copyright education. The Teaching Team had the pedagogical skills and some knowledge of copyright, whereas half of the copyright team held the expertise on copyright and half needed to get introduced to the topic of copyright.


Below is the scope of copyright literacy we wanted for the copyright team:

  • knowing of copyright law in Switzerland
  • citation
  • plagiarism
  • free licences
  • publishing contract and how to read them
  • conditions to reuse content in academic works and pedagogical materials

… Of course, when we get a question we are not prepared to answer, we still do our best to give an appropriate reply – although it might take us a bit more time.


Learning strategies: getting colleagues motivated

How to blend knowledge and skills from both teams? In close cooperation, a member of the teaching team, Raphaël, and a member of the copyright team, Manon, one of the co-author of this blog post, created a series of five workshops in 2017 as a “train-the-copyrighters” initiative for the new copyright team. They did this because not only they love to share, but also because there were no relevant copyright training available from other bodies like the Swiss library associations or other stakeholders.

They tried to be creative because they knew that the subjects were difficult and frightening for the new copyright team members who were totally new to the topic. Manon was also familiar with this feeling because of her previous experience of dealing with the revision to  the Swiss Copyright Law (Intellectual Property Institute 2016; 2018).

The goal was for the copyright team to acquire a set of common skills of course, but also, specifically for the new members, to be less worried about copyright matters. Also, as far as possible, to have fun together, build our team while learning playfully. Both Raphaël and Manon adapted or built content and shared ideas of pedagogic methods to train the copyrighters.


The five workshops

Copyright Snakes and Ladders developed at EPFL
  1. Copyright Law in Switzerland with “Snakes and Ladders”: To start on the right foot, it was necessary that every copyright team member had a clear knowledge of the Copyright Law in Switzerland. What are useful references? The federal act addressing copyright, as well as other legislation: like the Swiss Code des obligations, International IP Law, the Berne Convention, etc., and information about collective societies, university regulations and other countries. The benefit of using “Snakes and Ladders” was to make browsing, accessing and discussing this information fun. In practice, there was a die, a board with four colours you can land on and cards with the same colours, one colour for each category of information: article of Swiss laws and terms, Swiss stakeholders, international comparisons, tools and resources.

Our 2019 update: New year, new colleagues, new “train the copyrighter session”. Because copyright laws regularly evolve and because we regularly get new tricky cases, the workshop on copyright law in Switzerland had to be refreshed. It was an opportunity to create a new game, with 30 use cases to train knowledge about stakeholders, laws, and contracts, depending on different kinds of works.

Playful approaches to copyright education
  1. Citation: First, Raphael made an overview of our guide for citation, the Rational Bibliographic, then ask the group to brainstorm on why and how do we have to cite, for whom. Then he suggested a focus on specific and complex cases discussing actively to find the best solution: how to cite an internal document; how to cite an unpublished document; how to cite data and datasets; how to request permission to cite images and how to properly mention the copyright holder under an image.


  1. Copyright agreements: What is more enthusing than reading a publisher agreement? In this workshop, the goal was to make the process less daunting by doing group reading and asking everyone to write down what was unclear to them, what terms were new, etc., with colourful pencils and sticky notes. After annotating the agreements, it was time to bring tricks and tools to read contacts and discuss what was understood with the help of Manon.
  1. Reusing content in a thesis : through concrete cases, from free content to the most restricted, Raphael introduced various concepts around reusing content: free licenses; publisher’s permission forms; Copyright Clearance Center ; collecting societies; machine readability; preprint and postprint versions; etc.
Post-it note exercise as part of the workshop ‘reading copyright agreements’
  1. Plagiarism check tool: In this session, the similarity check tool used at our institution to detect plagiarism was presented along with a role-play. This role-play includes three roles that the copyright librarians had to adopt in a case of detected plagiarism. The role of a journal editor, a PhD advisor and a PhD student. This approach is a good way for the copyrighter in training to answer technical questions as well as understanding the stakes linked to plagiarism for other parties.


So, you want to teach copyright literacy?

Between transferring skills to colleagues and teaching to students, there is only a small step. That’s why we use some of the activities developed to train colleagues with our EPFL’s PhD students.


One of the successful adaptations is “Publishers’ license agreements: welcome to hell” where we include a reading activity of publishers’ agreements, only in a way that is more guided. In this version, attendees need to read the contracts in order to answer a set of three questions.


In our workshop called “Stay away from plagiarism”, we also use the role-play activity with the PhD students, mostly so that they can show how they understood the principles behind plagiarism checks and for them to develop their abilities in having a difficult conversation about the topic.


Between the teaching and copyright teams there were no territories, no prerogatives on the different scopes of action – this was key to transfer skills effectively amongst the teams. In our case, developing copyright literacy also meant developing copyright literacy education and the creative effort invested to train colleagues has been largely useful to enrich our training offer. Finally, this collaboration helped us to come up with a new motto that underpins how we like to talk about copyright: “Copyright is dull, let’s make it fun with active pedagogy, gamification and other tricks!”



FREDERIKSEN, Linda, 2016. The copyright librarian: a practical handbook. 1st edition. Waltham, MA: Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-08-100172-1.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY INSTITUTE, 2016. Results of the consultation procedure. [online]. 2016. [Accessed 21 August 2019]. Available from:
Results of the consultation procedure for the Copyright Act (CopA)

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY INSTITUTE, 2018. Using the opportunities offered by digitalisation. [online]. 2018. [Accessed 21 August 2019]. Available from:

We’d like to thank Mathilde and Manon, who have joined our International Copyright Literacy Community of Practice, and we’re delighted that they have shared their approach to developing a copyright literacy team and a programme of copyright education through using a number of playful approaches. If you have done something similar in your institution, we’d love to hear from you!   

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