Course:LIBR559A/Sims (2017)

From UBC Wiki


Sims, N. (2017). Rights, ethics, accuracy, and open licenses in online collections. College & Research Library News, 78(2), 79–78.


In this article, Nancy Sims considers ways that Creative Commons (CC) licenses are sometimes misused by libraries when digitizing collections. She presents several uses cases:

  • Applying a CC license to works in the public domain to either encourage sharing or require citation
  • Applying a CC license to works of mixed authorship
  • Applying a CC license when it is unclear if the library has permission to do so
  • Applying a CC license to works digitized under a copyright exception

Sims identifies several issues with using CC licenses in these cases. In all of these cases the library may not have the authority to apply a CC license to the work. This may be because the library does not have permission from the copyright owner to release their work or there are no rights to waive, such as with public domain works. Sims also notes that the use of CC licenses may restrict the freedom patrons would normally have to use materials. Sims gives the example of applying a CC license that requires citation for public domain works.

This article is presented as an opinion piece from Nancy Sims and does not present examples to illustrate these various uses of CC licenses. Nancy Sims is a well known and respected copyright librarian at the University of Minnesota though. The challenges presented in this article speak to a need for further exploration into the use of CC licenses by libraries digitizing their collections. This would help clarify if these challenges are common and may also find ways that libraries have addressed these issues. Another challenge with this article is that it does not offer any suggestions on how to address these short comings in the use of CC licenses for library digitization projects. For example, would it be useful for libraries to develop a set of permissive licenses for their unique circumstances instead of relying on the generic CC licenses?

Areas / Topics / Keywords

Copyright, Creative Commons, Digital Collections, Digital Commons

Page author: Logan Bingle