An Unhurried View of Copyright

Normally, when we think of legal treatises we think of current legal treatises and not historical ones. With copyright, especially, the legal treatises that existed at the time can provide an important window to the past and how legal scholars thought or would have thought about a specific legal issue at the time since the courts have decided so few copyright cases. Because of that, here at the University of North Carolina’s Scholarly Communication Office, we will be highlighting historic copyright treatises that were quoted by the Supreme Court interpreting the 1909 Copyright Act, which we still must use for historic materials. To that end, out first book review is Benjamin Kaplan’s An Unhurried View of Copyright.

Kaplan, B. (1967). An Unhurried View of Copyright. New York: Columbia University Press.

Benjamin Kaplan was a professor of Copyright Law and Civil Procedure at Harvard Law School from 1947 to 1972. He left Harvard law School to serve on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, where he served from 1972 to 1981. In 1961, Professor Kaplan wrote “Study 17: The Registration of Copyright” for the Library of Congress’ Copyright Office when Congress was considering a General Revision to the Copyright Code. He was often associated with Melville Nimmer as being an expert on copyright law during his lifetime. This book was quoted by the Supreme Court on 3 different occasions: Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 US 569, 592 (1994); Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 US 417, 465 & 468 (1984); and Fortnightly Corp. v. United Artists Television, Inc., 392 US 390, 392, 402, & 403 (1968). Its first citation in a Supreme Court opinion was two years after its original publication in 1966.

This book is a different kind of legal authority than what is normally seen. Unlike other works, which will be discussed later, this work is not a treatise. Professor Kaplan was invited to his alma mater, Columbia Law School, to speak as part of the James C. Carpentier Lectures — a series that has been discontinued.  The book is a collection of three different lectures. The first lecture is titled “The First Three Hundred Fifty Years.” Despite the title, this lecture traces the history of copyright law from its earliest theoretical concept in 1485 and ends before the 1909 Act. Although Kaplan breezes through this early history, he provides an interesting analysis often unseen in copyright legal history by starting before the Statute of Anne. This chapter would be a great introduction to non-law students or professionals who need or want an introduction to American copyright law. Kaplan’s lecture is readable and easy to follow; it should make for an easy introduction to historic copyright law.

The second lecture is a typical review of the 1909 copyright act and its effects.

Finally, the third lecture is called “Proposals and Prospects.” The final lecture is in regards to the proposed legislation that he had worked on with Congress. Kaplan advocates for what he believes the future of the Copyright Act should be, including his opinions on 89 H.R. 4347 or the “Copyright Revision Bill.” While the Supreme Court has not quoted from this section of the work, this lecture is worth the read. Congress eventually codified most of Kaplan’s advocated positions with the 1976 Act. While this work may not be legally persuasive when working with either the 1909 or 1976 Act, it provides an interesting perspective on these issues.

You should read An Unhurried View of Copyright. The book is short at 130 pages and was very influential during its time. While few courts have quoted the work in the last 10 years, cases where the courts have quoted Kaplan are still important decisions. As one example, Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. is a seminal copyright case. This case mostly completely recognized transformative use, and fair use analysis in academia often relies on this decision. Kaplan’s influence in copyright law is still felt to this day and his thoughts are worth the read.


What does #Gamergate have to do with UNC policy and the Scholarly Communications Office?

If you are unfamiliar with #Gamergate, Anita Sarkeesian is a popular feminist vlogger at the video blog Feminist Frequency, where she discusses issues of misogyny in video games.  Her videos regularly average about 300,000 hits and her three most popular videos Damsel in Distress: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 combined have over 3 million hits. Sarkeesian has won a 2013 honorary award from National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers and the 2014 Game Developers Choice Ambassador Award. She frequently speaks at conferences and university campuses despite receiving rape and death threats for discussing issues of misogyny in video games.

Most recently, and famously, Sarkeesian was scheduled to speak at the Utah State University and received three major threats one of which said that “the deadliest school shooting in American history” would occur if she spoke. Sarkeesian eventually cancelled the speaking engagement, because the University would still allow concealed carry weapons into the lecture despite the threats of mass shooting.

What could and would UNC do if such an incident happened here?   UNC has a policy on Prohibited Discrimination Harassment and related Misconduct: Including Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment, Sexual Violence, Interpersonal Violence and Stalking.  The policy applies to people harassing or being harassed or discriminating or being discriminated on campus and off-campus if the harassment would otherwise by covered by Title IX. If anyone uses the UNC wireless Internet to harass another student (or invited lecturer like Sarkeesian), the policy goes into effect and the University can take action.

If a student or lecturer is threated through email, it can be easy to reverse engineer the IP address and determine the geolocation of the IP address. It’s never a good idea to threaten someone’s life over the Internet, but it’s just really stupid if you do it from your university’s wireless.

Although we don’t solve crimes at the Scholarly Communications Office, we can help you learn more about acceptable use of the Internet at UNC.  Contact us if you have questions.

Open Access Week 2014 Events at UNC-Chapel Hill


UNC Chapel Hill Libraries are sponsoring the following events for Open Access Week 2014, October 20-24. Open to all faculty, staff, and students:

Copyright and Scholarly Communication: The Basicswith Anne Gilliland
When: Tues., Oct. 21, 2-3:30 pm
Where: Davis Research Hub

More Information here


Panel Discussion on Open Access Issues for Graduate Students
When: Wed., Oct. 22, 2-3 pm
Where: HSL Research Hub and online (this event will be recorded)

More information here


Panel Discussion on Open Data
When: Thurs., Oct. 23, 10 am-12:30 pm
Where: Davis Research Hub (this event will be recorded)

More information here


“A Hidden Obligation”

“A Hidden Obligation:” the Latest in a Series of Articles

I first became interested in privacy when I worked at the Ohio State University and was asked to do an audit of legal issues for my library.  As I began interviewing and surveying departments, Judy Weiner mentioned that she had questions and unresolved issues about how HIPAA and other privacy laws applied to the Medical Heritage Collection she curates.  Together, we decided to make an effort to understand how HIPAA and other laws and regulations might apply (or not) to that collection.  With some trepidation, we shared some our questions with the university’s Privacy Officer.  When the Privacy Officer’s initial reaction was something along the lines of “What’s an archive?  What do you people collect?” well, we knew we were asking questions outside the purview of the average professional working in the area of health privacy.

Our efforts to educate our privacy officer—and each other–led to our decision to start writing on the subject.  We’ve now written four articles where we discuss “Balancing Between Two Goods,” the importance of both preserving the historical record and guarding the privacy and confidentiality of its subjects.  Our work has focused on medically-oriented special collections, which bring a heightened set of legal and ethical concerns.

Working with Judy is always a pleasure and has been a model for me of what writing with a co-author should be.  Our strengths as writers complement each other, and her understanding of archival practices and priorities (she has a M.A. in public history as well as a masters in library science) is a good foil for my background in academic libraries and law.

Our latest article, “A Hidden Obligation: Stewarding Privacy Concerns in Archival Collections Using a Privacy Audit,” came out recently in the Journal for the Society of North Carolina Archivists.  In it we talked about how to make assessments about privacy and confidentiality issues at the time of first processing collections.  Privacy and confidentiality are contextual issues, with definitions and norms that seem to be in continual flux right now.  I have been fortunate to collaborate with someone with Judy’s depth and devotion to the subject as I have learned about it over the last few years.

Articles on privacy and confidentiality by Judith Wiener and myself:

Wiener, Judith A. and Gilliland, Anne T. Balancing between two goods: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and ethical compliancy considerations for privacy-sensitive materials in health sciences archival and historical special collections  Journal of the Medical Library Association, Jan 2011; 99(1): 15–22. doi:  10.3163/1536-5050.99.1.005

Gilliland, Anne T. and Wiener, Judith A.  Digitizing and Providing Access to Privacy-Sensitive Historical Medical Resources: A Legal and Ethical Overview, Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries, V.8, no.4  382-403 (2011) DOI:10.1080/15424065.2011.626347


Gilliland, Anne T. and Wiener, Judith A. Privacy and Confidentiality Issues in Historical Health Sciences Collections.  39 Northern Kentucky Law Review, 189 (2012).

Gilliland, Anne T. and Wiener, Judith A.  A Hidden Obligation: stewarding privacy concerns in archival collections using a privacy audit.  11 (1) 19-35 Journal for the Society or North Carolina Archivists, (2014).