Intellectual Property Challenges in Digital Library Environments

Intellectual Property Challenges in Digital Library Environments

James Macharia Tutu (Muranga University of Technology, Kenya)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3093-0.ch012
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Intellectual property poses a major challenge to digital libraries. This is because access to information in digital libraries is limited by laws, licenses and technology adopted by intellectual property owners. Similarly, intellectual property renders it difficult for digital libraries to make orphan works discoverable and accessible. Furthermore, intellectual property fragments copyright ownership, making it difficult for digital libraries to obtain the right clearance on content. To cope with these challenges, digital libraries have embraced the open access movement which allows reading, copying, downloading and sharing of digital content as long as the creators of the works are cited and acknowledged. Besides, digital libraries offer access to digital works produced under creative commons licenses. These licenses give the copyright owners the liberty to modify the copyright of their works to give room for sharing, use, and building upon the work.
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Intellectual property refers to creative products and the rights accorded to the owners of these products relating to their access and use. The rights given to the owners of creative works are referred to as intellectual property rights. These rights are protected by intellectual property laws such as the patent and copyright laws. For example, a work protected by copyright gives the owner exclusive rights to reproduction, public performance, broadcasting, translation and adaptation of the work. Intellectual property strives to strike a balance between private and public interests. It achieves this by giving the creators control over their works for a specified period of time (for example, fifty years after the life of the author) but gives some leeway for the public to explore the work for the benefit of humanity. The advances in technology, and especially digital technology, have posed a number of challenges in managing intellectual property. Libraries, and particularly digital libraries, are in a dilemma on how best to observe intellectual property rights and achieve their mandate of providing access to information.

Digital libraries consist of digital contents, which are either born digital or have been converted to a digital format. The nature of digital technology makes it easier for users to infringe intellectual property rights such as copyright because of the ease of downloading, copying, sharing and modifying a digital object. Critically, measures instituted to protect intellectual property rights in digital libraries go against the library philosophy of providing universal access to information. Therefore, digital librarians are currently exploring strategies to fulfil their mandate without violating intellectual property rights. This chapter contributes to the ongoing discourse on the subject.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Rights Management (DRM): A technology used to protect copyrighted work in digital environment by controlling access, copying, or modifying digital information.

Creative Common Licences: A set of licences that allows copyright owners to modify their rights to permit access, use and sharing of their works.

Fair Use: A provision under copyright law that permits limited use of copyrighted works without seeking the permission of the right holder.

Orphan Works: Copyrighted works whose right holders are unknown or cannot be traced or conducted.

Public Domain: Works which are not protected by copyright and are freely accessed and used by the public.

Open Access: A philosophy advocating for free and full access and use of digital information.

Digital Library: An information service that selects, acquires, organises, and disseminates digital born and digitised information resources to a designated community of users.

Intellectual Property: A set of laws that grants certain exclusive rights to inventors and creators of literary and artistic works for their creations for specific periods of time and protects the creation from unauthorised use.

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