Daily Archives: September 20, 2010

Librarians and Integrity


I feel I must comment on the recent library blog topic regarding Netflix in libraries …., or, in my way of thinking, more broadly – librarian integrity. Meredith Farkas commented very perceptively on libraries using Netflix DVD commercial movies in their collection in the same manner as DVDs they have legitimately purchased. I wholeheartedly agree – It’s wrong!

I have a hard time believing that any qualified or experienced librarian would even consider such actions. Copyright law requires that “if the following circumstances exist, then you must obtain permission from the copyright holder to show the movie;

    *if the screening is open to the public,
    *if the screening is in a public space where access is not restricted,
    *if persons attending are outside the normal circle of family and acquaintances, such as showing a film to a club or organization

I think it’s safe to say that any “public” presentation of a commercial movie in the library to the general public would be prohibited without permission from the copyright holder.”
(Williams College Libraries has an excellent resource on the topic.)

And, it seems logical that any other viewing by the general public that is not allowed by “fair use” legal exemptions shouldn’t be permitted, let alone encouraged. This is almost common knowledge among our profession.

So, where is the integrity among individual librarians? As I commented to Meredith, “If there are no institutional accounts with Netflix, then some individual librarian is putting their neck and career in jeopardy, and inviting personal liability along with the library as defendants in a law suit.” Who would do such a thing?

Seriously, does any professional librarian really believe that Netflix is going to extend their blanket carte blanche permission to share rented movies to any library – therefore to EVERY LIBRARY? Netflix is a business! For libraries to steal business from anyone is unconscionable. Meredith’s analogy of a grad student checking out library materials and then re-loaning them for a profit is very apt. It’s just not right, and no library would sit still for such a practice by their customers. Why would Netflix?

If Pegasus Librarian (There are Terms of Service and Terms of Service, If You Know What I Mean) is an example of current professional librarian thinking, maybe we have more serious problems than trying to make 21st Century Library services relevant in our communities. Does anyone really believe discussions involving topics from “closed stacks to copyright to food in the library” are ALL topics open to local interpretation? Local policy and federal law are hardly in the same category of discussion, or have the same gravity of consequences.

I certainly hope and pray that this is not a shadow of what the 21st Century librarian is going to become.

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