Fair Use Question of the Month: Archiving Online Material for a Library Collection
In this month's fair use question, a high school librarian wants to create an online collection archiving the community's reactions to the high school's remodel.
Dear Center for Social Media,
I'm a librarian at a small high school that is going through a significant remodel. I've noticed some local bloggers writing about the various stages of the remodel and posting photographs, as well as former students updating public Twitter and Facebook accounts with memories of the old buildings or excitement about the new ones. I'd like to archive these web pages for an online collection that would showcase the community's involvement with the development of the new buildings from beginning to end. Do I have to get a license from the posters to archive them, or could I archive them under fair use?
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This sounds like an interesting project! According to Principle Eight of The Code of Best Practices for Academic and Research Libraries, the preservation of online materials like this can be considered "strongly transformative":
"Authors of online materials often have a specific objective and a particular audience in mind; libraries that collect this material serve a different and broader purpose and a different and broader network of users. Libraries collect not only for a wide range of purposes today, but also for unanticipated uses by future researchers."
Principle Eight goes on to state that "it is fair use to create topically based collections of websites and other material from the Internet to make them available for scholarly use". But make sure you note how and when you harvested the material you capture and show, and be sure to provide attribution to the owners of the material. Also, especially since you will be collecting posts from Twitter and Facebook accounts from members of the community, provide these copyright owners with a way for them to register any objections to making their words, photos, or videos part of the online collection.
For more information on fair use, see the "So you have a fair use question?" section of the Center for Social Media's website, or check out one of our codes of best practices in fair use.
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