Copyright, Metaliteracies, and the Open Movement

Copyright and Libraries? Of course. OER and Libraries? Sure. Where these overlap is murky territory, and is one of the reasons a traditional emphasis on information literacy skills has evolved to focus on metaliteracies.

Metaliteracies apply to the multitude of formats, publishing paths and ways in which information is used (both by creators and consumers). To clarify, “Information Literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and values, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.” (ACRL Information Literacy Framework, 2016) “Metaliteracy challenges traditional skills-based approaches to information literacy by recognizing related literacy types and incorporating emerging technologies.” (Mackey & Jacobson, Reframing Information as a Metaliteracy, 2011, 62).

Citations and acknowledgement of scholarly work of others has long been bread and butter work of libraries. Publishing today regularly spills out beyond the traditional publishing house model, with scholarship published through open access platforms, in academic and disciplinary repositories, posted on personal blogs or websites, and are often published with Creative Commons licenses. Publishing in this environment often involves posting data in open repositories.

Librarians respect intellectual property rights and advocate balance between the interests of information users and rights holders.
-ALA Code of Ethics Article IV

Beyond the basics of when to cite, other complex questions emerge when looking at a faculty member publishing an open textbook who has questions about intellectual property rights, or claims of fair use for licensed content used within an open course. As these questions arise across the curriculum, all librarians must have proficiency in copyright topics. We cannot confidently teach others about copyright until we understand the depths of copyright ourselves. Our efforts to publish and adopt open textbooks and to manage collections of open educational resources will force us to address copyright issues large and small.

It’s complicated. I am not a lawyer, yet am often asked for advice and recommendations. Responsibility for copyright cannot be the job of a single person. We must all step up, myself included.