Librarian’s Copyright Litany (updated)

UPDATE: revised version now available

Exploring some exhortatory language to counter the message I encounter from many librarians that copyright is an area where our primary concern should be “compliance”. I don’t think this is a finished version – very much welcome your input/suggestions/feedback.

Inspired by Lessig’s “Certificate of Entitlement” to question copyright law (clearer copy) and Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer”.

The Librarian’s Copyright Litany
May we:
– Strive to meet and advocate for the needs, both present and future, of the communities we serve;
– Recognize that copyright law in its current formulation, and in the preferred future formulations of most content providers, primarily presents a barrier to meeting those needs – but stand firmly and expansively in those areas where the law already recognizes public rights; and
– Zealously promote all avenues towards a greater recognition of the public interest in copyright, including in the public consciousness through our daily interactions with our users, through our own contract negotiations, and in legislative and judicial processes.

Actually, one question I already have: should the title be a singular or plural possessive? I’ve already flip-flopped a couple times since starting the post…

Join the Conversation


  1. I especially like the last bullet.

    I’d love a line that says, “Remember that the purpose of copyright is to promote the progress of society, and not the interests of large media corporations” or some such. Could even quote the constitution directly. I feel like it’s so much easier to talk about these issues to people who are ill informed about copyright by starting with the Article 1 Section 8 Clause 8. But maybe that’s just me.

    I have no opinion on the singular or plural possessive. I struggle with it each time I mention the Farmer’s’ Market in writing.

    1. Hmm. I always like talking about the purpose of copyright, but it hadn’t occurred to me to put it in here. Guess I kinda felt like the second & third bullets (even though the second one is really two separate ones, I now think) covered that, but it is only indirectly.

      Author’s’ rights is my ongoing frustration, possessive-number-wise.

  2. I absolutely agree with Molly. Once librarians understand the purpose of the copyright is to advance learning thru the dissemination of creative works, they’re eyes pop open.

    1. Since I’ve gotten input here and from other channels, I’m going to take another go at this “litany.”

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