INFO 281- 06 & 18
Seminar in Contemporary Issues
Topic: Digital Copyright (1-Unit)
Fall 2021 Syllabus

Margaret A. Driscoll

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning August 19th, 6 am PT unless you are taking an intensive or a one-unit or two-unit class that starts on a different day (see below*). In that case, the class will open on the first day that the class meets. 

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

*This is an intensive, 1-unit course that runs from Monday, October 7th - November 4th (grading completed by November 10). The course will be available beginning October 7th at 6 am PDT. Although the course ends on November 4th, this and all other course sites will close at the end of the semester.

Course Description

This course examines digital copyright by giving students a legal and policy framework to evaluate the myriad of copyright scenarios libraries and archives face today. Copyright issues permeate daily tasks, from website design to book scanning projects to online reference. To participate in the active debate about fair use, digital rights management systems, e-reserve systems, digitization projects, and the like, librarians need to be well versed in both the basics of copyright law and the latest developments by regulation, legislation, and court decisions.

This is a one-credit course so we will not be able to cover all aspects of copyright in-depth, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be looking at all the important parts of copyright for librarians in today’s digital world. Required textbook reading equals 30-38 pages each week (about 1 hr for average reader). This reading is in addition to Canvas course-site informational pages and recorded videos. I will provide guidance for self-exploration of significant online resources for your ongoing personal study on this important topic. 

Course Requirements

Supplementary Information on Textbooks: Please note this supplementary information in addition to the automatically generated textbook information in the textbook that appears toward the end of this syllabus

Textbook (REQUIRED) Hirtle, P., Hudson, E. & Keyon, A. (2009). Copyright & Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for Digitization for U.S. Libraries, Archives & Museums. Cornell University Library.

Available for free download (with Creative Commons license) from Cornell's Digital Repository --

We will be reading virtually all of this book, and the flowcharts are EXCELLENT references for future decision-making.

Textbook (Optional / Recommended) Crews, K. (2020). Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators: Creative Strategies and Practical Solutions, Fourth Edition. ALA Editions. Available through Amazon, see below.

Outline of Schedule and Assignments (with due dates)

Dates Topic Activities


Module 1


What is Copyright? 
* Fundamentals
* Duration of protection

Introductions & Profile

Discussion Board (10)

Due October 13 

Module 2

Exclusive Rights of Copyright Owners
Fair Use Exemptions to Exclusive Rights (Section 110)

Discussion Board (10)

Fair Use Analysis (20)

Due October 20

Module 3

Libraries & Archives Exceptions (Section 108) 
Permissions & Licenses

Discussion Board (10)

Copyright Clearance Center (20)

Due October 27

Module 4

Locating Copyright Owners
Digital Rights & Risk Management

Discussion Board (10)

Public Domain Determination (20)

Due November 4


  1. Fair Use Analysis  CLO#2CLO#3
    Make a fair use analysis for several specific scenarios.
  2. Copyright Clearance Center  CLO#3, CLO#5
    Check license pricing and availability of specific items. Answer questions about permission and licensing of materials.
  3. Public Domain Determination CLO#1, CLO#2
    Using the various tools introduced this week (The Public Domain Slider, Hirtle’s Copyright Term and the Public Domain grid, Copyright Genie, Public Domain Sherpa), determine the ownership and copyright status of specific items. 
  Total Possible Percent of Total

Participation - Discussion boards 

4 modules (up to 10 pts. each week)

  • up to 6 pts. each week for initial substantive post +
  • up to 4pts. each week for at least one informative/reflective response to classmate's post)
  40   40%
Assignments (up to 20 pts. each)
  • Fair Use Analysis
  • Copyright Clearance Center
  • Public Domain Determination
  60   60%
  100 100%

Other Relevant Information

The course week will begin on Thursdays and end on Wednesdays at midnight. All assignments are due by midnight on Wednesdays. Turning in assignments late is not allowed except in the case of true extenuating circumstances and with written prior approval of the instructor. 

Participation may well be one of your greatest challenges in the online environment. Given prior experiences in a teacher-centered classroom, some of you may fear to initiate discussion, especially among yourselves; however, it is extremely important that you participate in the discussions substantively. You and your peers have a lot to share and amazing stories to tell. You will learn a great deal from each other through your discussions.

For each weekly discussion, you can earn up to 6 pts. for your initial substantive post and up to 4 pts. for at least one meaningful response to classmates' posts.

What do I mean by a substantive post?

The following are some ideas to set the stage for substantive participation for the development of your critical thinking skills:

  1. Ensure that the posting contributes to the overall discussion thread that is being developed. Your response must contain some reference back to the original discussion question. Stay on track by always referring back to that original discussion question.
  2. Try to use your posting to add value to the discussion. This is more effective than simply responding to meet a requirement.
  3. Check to see that the posting expands on the main theme (in the discussion question, or assignment posting).
  4. Make sure your posting is at least 75-150 words.

Other Ideas for Participation

  • Share a related experience.
  • Comment on others' experiences.
  • Ask students questions about their ideas/experiences.
  • Consider an idea being discussed, and offer a different perspective on it.
  • Describe an interesting idea from the week's reading, and explain what insights you gained from it.
  • Ask the group a question about the week's reading.
  • Disagree (respectfully, of course) with a point that someone else has made.
  • Discuss a related issue on which you would like some feedback.
  • Describe how you have applied the recent course concepts to your personal/professional life.
  • Share another resource you have used as you explored the course topics.

Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

INFO 281 has no prequisite requirements.

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Apply flowcharts to a wide range of copyright issues libraries face.
  2. Demonstrate facility with tools to determine copyright status of a work and assess legality of including in digital collections.
  3. Demonstrate knowledge of U.S. copyright law, library/archive copyright exceptions (17 U.S.C. Sect. 108), TEACH Act, Fair Use guidelines, and DCMA exceptions.
  4. Make a good faith Fair Use copyright analysis in multiple scenarios.
  5. Exhibit familiarity with the process of seeking permission, particularly through the Copyright Clearance Center.
  6. Evaluate publisher copyright policies, Creative Commons licensing, and self-archiving rules.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 281 supports the following core competencies:

  1. A Demonstrate awareness of the ethics, values, and foundational principles of one of the information professions, and discuss the importance of those principles within that profession.
  2. F Use the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital information items.


Recommended Textbooks:

  • Crews, Kenneth D. (2020). Copyright law for librarians and educators: Creative strategies and practical solutions (4th ed.). ALA Editions. Available through Amazon: 0838916295arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation. You must repeat the class if you wish to stay in the program. If - on the second attempt - you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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