Last week I escaped the extreme heat of NC for the gorgeous weather of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to attend a two-day meeting about all things copyright. This was my second year attending this small, intimate gathering of copyright experts from across the U.S., and I loved it. Our group operates under the Chatham House Rule, so details of our discussions are confidential. But I can tell you that we touched upon everything from recent court rulings to legislative updates to rights statements to model publishing contracts to ereserves to take-down notices to career paths to activist scholarship. Discussions were lively, thoughtful, and well-informed, and I was privileged to spend two days geeking out on copyright.

A few key takeaways:

  • Yoga poses, recipe compilations, and chicken sandwiches are NOT copyrightable – but cheerleading uniforms may be (awaiting SCOTUS ruling)
  • Attribution of CC-licensed materials is no different than scholarly citation
  • The Batmobile is a copyrightable character
  • Madonna, Led Zeppelin, and Disney (now there’s a combo!) are all – individually, not jointly – involved in some manner of copyright litigation
  • Half of all pre-1950 films and approximately 90% of all nitrate films are gone, as the Library of Congress has no “body of record” on file (sad!)
  • When collecting activist scholarship (e.g., tweets, photographs, record, etc.), libraries are not neutral, so if we can’t protect, maybe we shouldn’t collect; also, preservation trumps access

This year’s meeting was jointly hosted by the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication and MIT Libraries, and we met at the Harvard Law School Library. In addition to being a lovely library (hello, it’s HARVARD!), we got a chance to see their spiffy high-speed scanner in action. And when I say high-speed, I mean high-speed: averages 230 pieces of paper, or 460 pages, per MINUTE, and 2.5 MILLION pages per MONTH. It was a marvel!

Harvard Law School Library, Langdell Hall
Harvard Law School Library, Langdell Hall
Reading Room, Harvard Law School Library
Reading Room, Harvard Law School Library
Super spiffy scanner!
Super spiffy scanner!