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Licensing Basics

Date: Mon 17 Mar 2019

This week we start our two week coverage on licensing issues, and this is because licensing is at the top of the list of most important aspects of electronic resource management.

The readings are pretty straightforward, but let's preview some of the basics, which are nicely outlined in Weir (2016) (not in the reading):

  • There is a difference between copyright law and contract law, and in short, contract law overrides copyright law. This is how, for example, authors may sign over their copyrights to publishers, among other things.
  • There are two general types of licensing agreements:
    • End user agreements are generally the kind that people accept when they use some kind of software or some service.
    • Site agreements are the kinds of agreements librarians get involved in when they negotiate for things like databases. Here, site refers to the organizational entity.
  • There are several important parts of a standard license. They include:
    • Introductions: this includes information about the licensee and the licensor, date information, some information about payments and the schedule.
    • Definitions: this section defines the major terms of the contract. Weir (2016) includes, as examples, the licensee, the licensor, authorized user, user population, and whether the contract entails a single or multi-user site.
    • Access: This may cover topics such as IP authentication and proxy access.
    • Acceptable use: Include here issues related to downloading, storage, print rights, ILL, preservation.
    • Prohibited use: What can't people do -- download restrictions, etc.
    • Responsibilities: What is the licensee (the library) responsible for. Be careful about accepting responsibility for actions that the library would have a difficult time monitoring. Then also, what is the licesor responsible for. This might include topics such as 24 hour access and like.
    • Term and terminations: Details about the terms of the contract and how the contract may be terminated. Be aware that many libraries are attached to either municipal, county, or state government and must adhere to relevant laws as such.
    • various provisions

As an example, the California Digital Library, via the University of California, provides a checklist and a copy of their standard license agreement.

The checklist covers four main sections and is well worth a read:

  • Content and Access
  • Licensing
  • Business
  • Management

We also have three additional readings this week. One of the readings covers SERU: A Shared Electronic Resource Understanding, by NISO. We also have a short article by Regan that provides some guidelines on becoming competent on licensing.

SERU, Shared Electronic Resource Understanding, is another NISO collaborative document that helps standardize some aspects of the licensing process and also can be used as "an alternative to a license agreement" if a provider and a library agrees to its use. Like the standard licensing structure that Weir (2016) outlines, SERU also includes parts that describe use, inappropriate use, access, and more, but also posits other stipulations, such as confidentiality and privacy.

The other reading is the NASIG Core Competencies for Electronic Resources Librarians. This doesn't specifically cover licensing, but I added it to this week's reading list for a couple of reasons. First, it's a reminder that when we talk about electronic resource management, we talk about a comprehensive list of responsibilities, skills, technologies, and more, and I need to keep reminding you of this. Second, because the Regan reading specifically mentions these competencies, and I thought it would good to introduce them here, even though many of you have already commented on them in previous discussion forums.

This week, after reading the material, I want you to focus on the Regan article and some of the questions raised there. Regan raises important questions about the licensing process and about effective communication and advocacy. This week, I want you to comment on these things, and I want you to answer some of the questions that Regan raises. You can do that by searching the web and library websites. In fact, at the beginning of the semester I asked you to subscribe to the SERIALST email list. It's now time to draw upon that and any discussions you've seen in those lists that are related. You can usually search the archives of those lists, if you want. Regan also mentions some other sources, such as LIBLICENSE and Any of these are fair game for discussing, but the latter is a commercial entity that provides material and tutorials for a kind of tuition. It might be useful to know about but explore only if you want. However, LIBLICENSE provides model licenses as well as links to additional model licences, including the above mentioned California Digital Library Standard License Agreement. The LIBLICENSE model license includes even more details, such as types of authorized uses, and the new ones include:

  • course reserves
  • courepacks
  • electronic links
  • scholarly sharing
  • scholarly citation
  • text and data mining


Regan, S. (2015). Lassoing the Licensing Beast: How Electronic Resources Librarians Can Build Competency and Advocate for Wrangling Electronic Content Licensing. The Serials Librarian, 68(1–4), 318–324.

Weir, R. O. (2012). Licensing Electronic Resources and Contract Negotiation. In R. O. Weir (Ed.), Managing electronic resources: a LITA guide. Chicago: ALA TechSource, an imprint of the American Library Association.

teaching/licensing-basics.1550520906.txt.gz · Last modified: 2019/02/18 15:15 by seanburns