Copyright Issues in Libraries, Education and Open Access: A Joint Session by Singapore Management University Libraries (SMU Libraries) and The Library Association of Singapore (LAS)

By Nazimah Ram Nath*

(16 March 2017) SMU Libraries, in partnership with the Library Association of Singapore, held a seminar on 25th January 2017 to promote an awareness on copyright issues and copyright obligations amongst librarians and professionals in the education industry in Singapore. The seminar was held at the Li Ka Shing Library, Singapore Management University. The theme for the day was Copyright Issues in Libraries, Education and Open Access. The event was organized in keeping with trending interests in Singapore, on the issue of copyright, and the corresponding restrictions, user obligations and user rights.

Speakers for the event were Mr. Derek Whitehead and Mr Paul Ng. Mr. Whitehead is an Adjunct Professor in the Swinburne Institute of Social Research. He was also the former President of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). Mr. Ng is a Senior Education Development Specialist at Ngee Ann polytechnic’s Centre for Learning and Teaching Excellence (CLTE). He is also the Co-Chair of Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Copyright Committee.

In his address “The Continuum of Openness”, Mr. Whitehead discussed the barriers present in open access initiatives and cited the legal barriers, such as legislation, contracts which override exceptions and commercial license terms as key obstacles to achieving true openness. Technical barriers, such as digital rights management, technical protection measures and proprietary formats add to these restrictions. Accessibility barriers, such as geo-blocking, subscriptions and paywalls, and need for high bandwidth also limit access to resources.

Sharing on the Proposals for Reform of Copyright by the Australian Productivity Commission, Mr Whitehead reported that the Productivity Commission’s report had indicated that Australia’s current exceptions to copyright are too narrow and prescriptive, and do not reflect the way how content is used and consumed in the present day. The Productivity Commission had recommended that Australia should introduce a “fair use” exception for copyright infringement.

Mr Paul Ng engaged the audience on an interactive discussion on copyright issues that are frequently faced by library practitioners in the course of providing access to users. His session, “Copyright for Teachingfocused on analysis and interpretation of Singapore’s copyright law and highlighted the exceptions for education and libraries supporting educational institutions. Mr. Ng also shared tips on searching for open access resources that allow reuse, retention, revisions and redistribution and took the participants through various options of using Open Educational Resources, working with Creative Commons Resources, licences and attributes as well as making use of Google Advanced Search for appropriately licensed content.

The session was attended by more than 120 participants (above) from various libraries, educational and government institutions in Singapore. Participants were actively engaged in the panel discussion which followed the two presentations. Some of the topics discussed were on copying for classroom use, management of copyright in reading lists, uploading of “free resources” found on the internet on e-learning systems, copyright restrictions in document delivery and the application of the fair dealing principle to private educational institutions.

Copyright law and intellectual property rights continue to remain hotly debated and discussed as educators, libraries and open access proponents rally towards a more open and less restrictive copyright legislation.  The SMU Libraries – LAS Copyright Seminar is one attempt to bring library and education professionals together, to discuss, debate, learn and share best practices pertaining to copyright. We hope for more such opportunities in the near future.

* Nazimah Ram Nath is the Librarian for Collections, Content Discovery and Copyright @ SMU Libraries