Profs adjust to policy changes for eReserves

    Changes in policies for using electronic reserves resulting from last year’s conflicts over copyright laws between the university and the Association of American Publishers have created inconveniences for university professors.

    In fall 2003, the AAP sent a letter to UCSD concerning the operations of eReserves, a service used by professors to post copies of course readings through the campus libraries’ Web site. The letter stated that the program was going beyond the “fair use clause” of federal copyright law by providing free course materials online to students.

    Since then, the library system has implemented significant changes to the eReserves service in response to the AAP’s concerns, according to UCSD Libraries Legal Adviser Julie Conner. The changes include educating frontline staff on fair-use issues and requiring professors to read a statement affirming that they understand the law before posting materials.

    A cap on the number of times that course readings can be used was another policy change, Conner said. If a professor posts a course reading in more than one term, the library must ask permission for its reuse and pay a fee that comes from the libraries’ budget, she said.

    The policies have been a change of pace for some professors, who feel that the strict rules have transformed a once expedient service into a more difficult one.

    “There is a lot more red tape,” political science professor Samuel Popkin said. “Instead of just asking for a previous excerpt to be put back up, you submit a full request so it can be checked against past use.”

    Changes to the policies have set back the amount of time the library takes to process an eReserves request, according to assistant communications professor Nitin Govil.

    “It does seem that eReserves is very stringent about complying with fair-use criteria, in particular verifying the percentage of a copyrighted work being put on reserve,” he said. “This can, and does, create delays and unpredictability about exactly when a request will be processed.”

    Conner attributed the delays to the course overload in the beginning of the quarter, rather than procedural changes.

    “Sometimes faculty feel things aren’t happening fast enough, because the front line is so flooded with requests the week before classes start,” Conner said.

    Some faculty members are finding that they have to rework course materials or find different ways to get readings to students because they cannot post the same pieces in more than one term.

    “In one case I could replace the book with articles the author published first,” Popkin said. “In other cases, I will face a real dilemma next year. Fortunately the librarians are really helpful.”

    Not only has use of course material been limited by the new rules, but also the time in which eReserves can approve those materials, according to School of International Relations and Pacific Studies associate professor Roger Bohn.

    “It certainly has cut down on our ability to use material, and on our ability to put material up quickly,” he said. “The old eReserves system was wonderful and ultra-convenient. [It is] no longer.”

    Before the policy change, the AAP and the university tried to come to terms, according to UC Counsel Mary E. MacDonald. However, those discussions led the AAP to contemplate legal action, she said. AAP Vice President for Legal and Government Affairs Allan Adler denied any implication that the organization was close to any lawsuits, but declined to comment further.

    Although a lawsuit may not have been explicitly threatened, it was suggested, Conner said.

    “They essentially said, ‘We’re prepared to bring legal action,’” Conner said. “They were not shy about it.”

    Even if the suit was filed, it would have been unsuccessful for the AAP, according to MacDonald.

    “We told [the AAP] that even if they sued us, they couldn’t get damages,” she said. “[It is] because we are protected by … sovereign immunity to public entities, and we’re not liable for intellectual properties.”

    The UCSD library system notified the association of its changes, but the organization was still dissatisfied, and proceeded to contact the UC Office of the President general counsel, feeling the problem went beyond UCSD and included the rest of the UC campuses, according to MacDonald. In meeting with AAP last fall and early this year, the university maintained its position that eReserves and similar programs were within legal bounds, MacDonald said.

    “We explained why, in our opinion, there was not a violation of fair use,” she said. “This is actually a national issue; it’s not just a UCSD issue. AAP is concerned with practices nationwide at universities, and concerned about potential loss of income for their publishers.”

    Readers can contact Erika Cervantes at [email protected].

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