Until recently, I had never really given much thought to copyright. There have been a wide variety of materials that I have been given to digitize and put online in our Digital Collections, however, somebody else had always decided before it came to me that we were allowed to put it online. I was given whatever copyright statement was necessary for that material, I included it in the metadata for that digital collection, and that was all I needed to know.
Recently I have been asked to help out with our Digital Repository for a while. Part of the work I’m doing includes checking some articles written by our faculty that have been published, to see if we are allowed to put them online in our Digital Repository. Sometimes It’s easy to figure out and other times it takes some searching. If it’s not obvious from looking at the published article online, I use the SHERPA/RoMEO website which shows if and how a publisher allows use of articles from their publications. Sometimes they allow the original work to be put in an institutional repository like ours but they don’t allow us to use the published PDF version of the article from their web site. Sometimes they allow us to use the article but they have an embargo period of anywhere from 6 to 48 months. If so, we wait the specified amount of time after the original publication date before we put it online.
Some articles are published under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Works produced by employees of the U. S. Government as part of their official duties are not copyrighted within the U. S. So if there is an article with a co-author who is an employee of the U.S. federal government, then we can use that as well. I’m certainly no expert on the subject, but it has been an interesting introduction into the world of copyright.