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By far, the most important thing I (re)learned at this year’s annual copyright conference at UCCS is that we, librarians and staff at academic institutions, should treat each and every copyright related question we get as a teaching opportunity. Several times during the conference, the highly esteemed featured speakers Dr. Kenneth D. Crews and Kevin Smith eloquently reminded the audience that only attorneys can and should dispense with legal advice. The rest of us, regardless of our positions, experiences, and titles at our individual institutions, share the role of educators, and rather than policing our communities, we are here to educate our patrons about copyright. What this means in more practical terms isĀ  that none of us should ever (allow ourselves to) be put in a position of making decisions about other people’s use of copyrighted material. Instead, our job is to teach and empower students, faculty, and staff to see themselves as both content creators and content consumers. As such, we all need to know how to make informed decisions, understand the importance of being able to formulate strong arguments in favor of our use of copyrighted materials, as well as to recognize when there is actual need to consult an attorney.

To paraphrase Dr. Crews, we should all end every conversation about copyright with the question: “Did you notice that I didn’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do?”

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