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In some cases, a country may not have a specific statutory library exception. Yet libraries may still be entitled to engage in many of the activities described above, if those countries have a broader provision that would permit any citizen, which would include librarians and library patrons, to undertake these activities. This is true, for example, in Iraq and Namibia. Some countries limit their exceptions to a list of designated libraries; in other countries, the exceptions are available to all libraries that meet certain requirements, such as being open to the public and acting for non-commercial purposes.

Compulsory licenses

In addition to the exceptions and limitations surveyed above, many countries limit the rights of copyright holders with so-called "compulsory licenses." Compulsory licenses are often seen as compromises between the economic interests of copyright holders and the public’s interest in using copyrighted material. For example,  Article 13 of the Berne Convention  gives countries the authority to impose compulsory licenses for the use of musical compositions. Examples of compulsory licenses existing in some countries include the right of public lending by libraries, and the right of private coping of audio recordings in exchange for a tax on blank CDs. This will be further discussed in  Module 5: Managing Rights .

Back to the case study

Unfortunately, unless the compositions in Angela's collection have fallen into the public domain, there is no simple answer to Angela's question. Nadia would be obliged to review the details of the particular system of exceptions and limitations contained in her country's copyright law to ascertain, first, whether she would be permitted to make a digital copy of each piece of sheet music and, second, whether the library would be permitted to post the digital copy of it on the library's servers. It is more likely that the first of these activities would be permitted than that the second activity would be permitted, but neither issue could be definitively resolved without consulting the country's laws.

Additional resources

In 2001, Siva Vaidhyanathan published  Copyrights and Copywrongs: the Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity . The thesis of this highly accessible book is well captured by its title. For an interview with Vaidhyanathan, in which he summarizes his argument, see  Copyrights and Copywrongs . For a similarly accessible study that takes a much more favorable view of the evolution of the rights and exceptions associated with copyright, see Paul Goldstein,  Copyright's Highway: From Gutenberg to the Celestial Jukebox  (2003) -- available only in  print  or via  audio download .

The most comprehensive examination of the provisions of each country's copyright laws that provide flexibility to librarians is Kenneth Crews,  Study on Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries and Archives .

Another highly useful study is International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions,  Limitations and Exceptions to Copyright and Neighbouring Rights in the Digital Environment: An International Library Perspective .

Two helpful WIPO studies are  WIPO Study on Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for the Visually Impaired  and  WIPO Study on Limitations and Exceptions of Copyright and Related Rights in the Digital Environment .

Copyright Exceptions in the UK  is just what it says.

For a highly accessible study of latitude that filmmakers (particularly in the United States) enjoy when quoting copyrighted material, see Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi,  Recut, Reframe, Recycle  (Center for Social Media 2008).


The following judicial opinions explore and apply some of the principles discussed in this module:

Larrikin Music v. Men at Work  (Australia 2010) (right of reproduction)

Case C-5/08, Infopaq International A/S v. Danske Dagblades Forening  (right of reproduction)

Gilham v. R, Court of Appeal of England and Wales (Court of Appeal of England and Wales), 2009  (right of reproduction)

J.K. Rowling v. RDR Books, 575 F.Supp.2d 513 (2009)  (derivative works)

Case C-306/05, Sociedad General de Autores y Editores de España (SGAE) v. Rafael Hoteles SA  (Meaning of Communication to the Public)

Case C-479/04, Laserdisken ApS v. Kulturministeriet  (Exhaustion)

Case C-245/00, Stichting ter Exploitatie van Naburige Rechten (SENA) v. Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (NOS)  (Rental Rights – Equitable Remuneration)

Cour de cassation (1re ch. civ.), 28 février 2006, Studio Canal, Universal Pictures video France et SEV c/ S. Perquin et Ufc que Choisi r  (Private Copies – Technological Protections)

Sweden: B 13301-06, 17 April 2009 (Pirate Bay Case)  (Meaning of Making Available)

Buffet v. Fersig, Judgment of May 30, 1962, Cour d'appel, Paris, 1962 Recueil Dalloz [D. Jur.] 570 (described in  Merryman, The Refrigerator of Bernard Buffet , 27 Hastings L.J. 1023 (1976)) (moral rights)

Campbell v. Acuff Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569 (1994)  (fair use)

Germany: Bundesverfassungsgericht, Urteil vom 17. Februar 1998, - 1 BvF 1/97  (Right to Short Reporting)

Assignment and discussion questions


1. Are the restrictions that copyright law places on librarians in your country too strict, too loose or the right balance? Use the references in the list of Additional Resources (below) to locate the list of library exceptions applicable in your own country. Summarize the principal exceptions.

2. Imagine and describe a project that you would like to develop at your library but that would not be permitted by the copyright laws in your country. Draft an amendment to your national copyright statute that would cover this use.

Discussion question(s)

Comment upon some of the amendment proposals of your colleagues.


This module was created by  Emily Cox . It was then edited by a team including  Sebastian DiazWilliam FisherUrs GasserAdam HollandKimberley IsbellPeter JasziColin MaclayAndrew Moshirnia , and  Chris Peterson .

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Copyright for librarians. OpenStax CNX. May 14, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10698/1.2
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