Category Archives: Fair use

The Flora of Forfarshire: A publication of historical and botanical value available in modern collections and public platforms.

During the spring semester 2017, UT Libraries and the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center worked together to digitize the Flora of Forfarshire and make it available to the public through the Texas ScholarWorks repository.

pic3The Flora of Forfarshire is an emblematic botanical work by the Scottish botanist, William Gardiner (1809-1852), a poet and botanist, well known among the botanical establishment in 19th Century Europe. Published in 1848, The Flora of Forfarshire comprises +300 pages of plants, fungi, lichens, and algae growing in Forfar (Angus) county, Scotland. Since the publication of the book was an ambitious project, Gardiner funded its project by recruiting patrons who were rewarded with folios of pressed samples of representative species listed in thebook, accompanied by taxonomic and geographical information. Most of these folios no longer exist, but one of them, along with the main book, are accessioned at the University of Texas Libraries.pic2
The Flora of Forfarshire has historical and scientific value because of Its age, the adverse economic conditions the author had overcome to publish it, the excellent preservation of the pressed plants in the complementary volume and, the botanical information of a region that has changed a lot since the XIX century, among other reasons. In order to make the book and the folio accessible to the public and providing an accurate and updated version of the information contained in the Flora, The Plant Resources Center and UT Libraries worked in a joint project offering the opportunity to Jessica Wigley, a Museum Studies student to have hands-on experience in digitizing, georeferencing, and updating the taxonomic information of each of the records.pic1 A total of 135 records were digitized and barcoded, 74 required taxonomic update, and 54 localities had their localities georeferenced. Jessica presented her final results in a poster at the conference Botany 2017 in June 2017 and all the products of the project including downloadable versions of the poster, the books, and a spreadsheet with all the information, were uploaded to the Texas ScholarWorks repository during the fall 2017. The Flora of Forfarshire collection can be accessed and consulted here:

Post submitted by Amalia Díaz, Ph.D., Assistant Curator, Plant Resources Center.

Happy Fair Use Week!

This week is Fair Use Week and UT Libraries is participating by hosting a Copyright & Fair Use workshop on Wednesday and by joining in the online discussion via social media.

If you want to see everything that is happening around the country this week, please see the Association of Research Libraries’ page devoted to Fair Use Week.

What is fair use?

Fair use is the limited use of copyrighted works without needing to ask permission from the copyright owner. There is a ton of nuance in that sentence and fair use requires careful consideration. While it is complicated, it’s one of the most important parts of U.S. copyright law for people who are creating new works by building upon the works of others.

Fair use is happening all around – especially if you are on a college campus.

  • A professor may use small clips from films or television shows to demonstrate or illustrate a point in class
  • A student may use quotes from other authors in order to expand upon an argument in their paper
  • University radio or TV stations may use small clips from press conferences or other events as part of their news reporting
  • An instructor may share an article or selected reading with their class
  • A PhD student may include images or figures in their dissertation
  • A student group may create a parody of a popular show or meme

If this all seems foreign to you, I encourage to come to the workshop tomorrow (Wednesday) about fair use. We’ll discuss the basics of copyright & fair use and have hands-on “is this fair use?” activities.

The Libraries also has a comprehensive resource about copyright in the U.S. There is a subsection on fair use that gives a good overview of what needs to be considered. And I highly recommend you check out the codes of best practices that the Center for Media & Social Impact has collected on their site. While these statements are not legally binding, they are a great resource for investigating fair use in different fields.


Top 5 Things We Tweeted This Year!

These are our top 5 tweets for 2016! Thanks for all the Twitter love, everybody!

Texas ScholarWorks @utdigitalrepo
The @utlibraries scholarly publishing site is now live! Learn about #openaccess, #opendata, #copyright and more!

Texas ScholarWorks @utdigitalrepo
ACRL Releases Updated Scholarly Communication Toolkit …

Texas ScholarWorks @utdigitalrepo
More #openaccess button-making & swag today! Come by! Thursday, Oct. 27th, from 1:00-3:00pm in the Fine Arts Library @utlibraries

Texas ScholarWorks @utdigitalrepo
@utlibraries paid 24k 4 subscription 2 Science mag. Could’ve bought a Ford Escape 4 that $! #openaccess helps keep our, & your, costs down!

Texas ScholarWorks @utdigitalrepo
@utaustin Stop by our #openaccess Week booth at PCL from 12-2 today! button-making machines, swag, & enthusiastic librarians! @utlibraries

Thank you to Clifford Lynch!

As part of our “Year of Open,” UT Libraries hosted CNI Executive Director Clifford Lynch for a public presentation. Titled “Evolving Scholarly Practice and the New Challenges for Scholarly Communications, ” Dr. Lynch discussed multiple topics pertaining to digital scholarship, including data management, digital curation, research replication, and data packaging. He also held a special meeting with UT Librarians to discuss these topics in more depth. Learn more about Clifford Lynch.

Again, thank you for your incredible insight!

Google Books copyright case

The Google Books copyright case (Authors Guild vs Google) is finally over – more than 10 years after it started. The Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal from the authors which means the Second Circuit Court decision stands – that the Google Books digitization project was a fair use.

If you’d like to review the details of this case, here are a couple resources:,_Inc._v._Google,_Inc.

Fair Use Week 2015!

We are proud to announce that UT Austin is celebrating Fair Use Week!

UT students, faculty, and staff use fair use every day. Professors teach, undergraduates learn, and researchers advance knowledge relying on fair use to use copyrighted information.  Fair Use Week is an occasion to promote the opportunities presented by this legal exemption, to share successful fair use stories, and to discuss this important law.

Our contributions tie into the national Fair Use Week efforts, which are currently in its second year, and the celebration runs from February 23-27. We hope you’ll participate, either in person or virtually:

  • Tuesday, February 24, 1:00-2:00 pm: the UT Libraries is hosting an Association of College & Research Libraries webcast, “Does Fair Use Really Work?” featuring Kevin Smith/Duke University, Perry-Castañeda Library 3.120.
  • Katherine Kapsidelis and Rebecca Pad, iSchool students and UT Libraries’ Ask a Librarian Interns, share their video, “(c)opyright and Fair Use“.
  • David Hunter, the UT Libraries’ Music Librarian, discusses “Fair Use and the Jazz Appreciation MOOC” in his blog post.
  • Georgia Harper, the UT Libraries’ Scholarly Communications Advisor, shares her “I’m an Artist” presentation.

There are many online offerings, so you can participate no matter where you are! If you have any questions, please contact Emilie Algenio, emilie.algenio at gmail dot com, or Colleen Lyon, c.lyon at austin dot utexas dot edu.

Fair Use and MOOCs

As Fair Use Week begins, Francesca Giannetti and David Hunter considers the use of readily and legally available digital media for MOOCs.

Their experience stems from assisting a University of Texas professor with an online jazz appreciation course.

In helping University of Texas at Austin professor Jeff Hellmer identify and include audio and video recordings as he set up his jazz appreciation course, first offered January 2014, Francesca Giannetti and I considered numerous streaming or downloading possibilities. To rely on fair use in the context of an open educational resource, where the course audiovisuals would be posted on YouTube, was untested legal ground. In our view Professor Hellmer’s uses were fair, such as 7-10 seconds of a song, embedded in a lecture, to illustrate a point.  But a potential problem existed inasmuch as a challenge by a content owner would require removal of specific material, which would ruin the lecture, unless the institution was ready to be sued or file a declaratory judgment action against the accuser.  At that time we had not witnessed the example of Lawrence Lessig, who, when served in August 2013 with a take-down request by Liberation Music Pty Ltd., countered with a declaratory judgment request, and was successful. We knew that Sony BMG, for example, tolerates nothing as fair, even if we were to utilize DMCA Section 512’s provision to counterclaim fair use, with a full explanation. When the question becomes “is it worth engaging in a lawsuit to prove that 7 seconds of a song, used transformatively to illustrate a point is fair, or do we take down that audiovisual?”, most of us don’t enjoy the luxury of the resources to file the lawsuit.

During course development the MOOC platform’s technicians highlighted the audio and video that was available through YouTube, and agreed to make the links inactive after a relatively short period.  Of course, the files were still available on YouTube itself after that time, so it remained possible for students to return to them directly.

This illustrates a balance of practicality and limitation of risk in the ever-changing and challenging environment of information provision of recorded sound and video. This provision remains the property of multi-national businesses that have very little interest in encouraging the educational use of their property, and even less in admitting that fair use principles apply to current modes of delivery.

In the music streaming group, we’ve got Spotify, RhapsodyDeezer for our friends in Europe, Rdio, and Microsoft’s Xbox Music (and many, many others), Google’s Play Music All Access, and Apple’s iRadio.  And don’t forget VEVO for music videos.



And YouTube:


In addition, there are a host of sites with user contributed content like Grooveshark and Soundcloud. These sites have terms of use that tell users not to upload content that infringes on the rights of IP holders, and they run the titles of tracks through a music database to check, but things slip by. Consequently, these sites frequently claim protection under the “safe harbor” provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, under which they are held unaccountable for copyrighted content until they are made aware of it. The Verge published an article on an interesting twist related to the safe harbor provision of the DMCA involving Grooveshark and pre-1972 recordings. Grooveshark is actually something of a hybrid in that it offers some licensed streams in addition to the user content.

In the user contributed content group, there’s Grooveshark:


And Soundcloud:


Lastly, there are radio services and curated sites like PandoraThis is My Jam, and Songza. These aren’t necessarily the best ones to go to for a known query though since they’re designed more to introduce you to things that you might like based on your initial input. You essentially select a playlist curated by other listeners, or by a MIR algorithm, and if you’re like me, the results can occasionally be irritating. Why, after selecting Baroque as the genre, Pandora thinks I want to listen to The Messiah in the middle of May is beyond me…

In summary, there are copious and growing amounts of (mostly) legal digital music to access on the internet these days, which makes the prospect of designing listening exercises for online music classes surprisingly straightforward. Granted, subscribers do not control the collection, so content could change or disappear from one moment to the next. But with a little searching, it can probably be had from one service or another. Of course, busy professors don’t really want to be messing with all these changes!


Embedding players in course-related material is also possible.  Here’s a Spotify example, Louis Armstrong with the Hot Seven performing “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue.”


The Internet Archive also permits users to embed players. No user account is required to stream or download content, so the file begins to stream as soon as the user clicks the play button. Matching the exact album or recording requested by the professor gets a lot harder with this site, since most of the audio content is user contributed and no particular collection policy is being followed. This is a more modern recording of “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue” by Louis Armstrong & All His Stars that a user uploaded to the Community Audio section.


Returning to Spotify, here is Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” from the album Time Out.


This is a slightly muddy MP3 of the same recording of Brubeck’s “Take Five” taken from the Internet Archive. Sound quality can occasionally be an issue in the Community Audio section, as these are non-commercial transfers, but the audio engineers who post their digital transfers of historic recordings tend to be very transparent about any noise reduction algorithms used.

UT’s contract with edX apparently stipulated that the course and all its materials must be completely free of charge. For this reason, creating a playlist in iTunesU for students to purchase is not an option. But embedding a player could be possible in assigned and supplemental materials, the things students will be consulting outside of the actual class episodes.

Spotify’s Terms and Conditions of Use make it clear that the service is designed for personal use only. This point is further clarified in their FAQ section:



As far as the school use goes, it is unclear if the primary objection concerns the use of Spotify as background music or if all institutional uses are similarly unauthorized. The TEACH Act might afford some legal protection for educational uses, but probably only for small portions of the work that are integral to the class session. Meanwhile, the terms of use agreement for the Spotify Play Button (i.e. the embeddable Spotify music player) is slightly different (and shorter) than their general Terms and Conditions. The language around individual users is downplayed here, probably because it doesn’t much matter. Whoever presses the play button must have an individual Spotify account in order for the music to play. Therefore the significance of the player’s location, be it on an institutional or personal website, seems low. Spotify still gets to preserve its individual end user model, and still gets to collect data on those individual uses. In a sense, UT the institution is acting much like Google, pointing the user to where the content is located, not reproducing it.

So at the very least, for the Spotify Play Button, we are looking at a kind of implied license, if not a crystalline example of fair use. If Spotify provided the functionality to allow users to embed players, it doesn’t make sense for the company to sue a segment of (institutional) users for embedding the players, since Spotify intended for that very thing to happen. What other purpose was the creation of embeddable players intended to serve?

This post is adapted from “A Forest of Streams,” and “Jazzed about MOOCs,” first posted by Francesca Giannetti on her blog “The Art of MOOCS” in May 2013.  Francesca was interim Music Librarian at the University of Texas at Austin September 2013 to February 2014 before moving to be Digital Humanities Librarian at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.  David Hunter is Music Librarian, the University of Texas at Austin.

Lawrence Lessig lawsuit

Fair use got a win with Lawrence Lessig’s lawsuit against an Australian record label. Lessig used clips of a song by Phoenix in a lecture that was posted on YouTube. Liberation Music, the label representing Phoenix, issued a take-down notice for the lecture and then threatened to sue when Lessig fought back against the notice. The settlement requires Liberation Music to pay Lessig for harm caused and has resulted in a new take-down policy for Liberation Music.

For more information on this lawsuit: