Libraries and the Internet Toolkit


Copyright owners may choose to grant certain permissions for the use of their protected works to others within the work’s protected period.  This can be done through licensing or by transferring permissions permanently.  When a copyright owner licenses their materials, they grant others the use of the work for a limited purpose, market or timeframe.

Licensing agreements may be applied to all types of copyrighted works, including software.  Examples of licensed materials surround us: films may be licensed for video distribution, modification or public display; software may be licensed through end user agreements for use on personal computers; and Creative Commons licenses are used to extend the permissions granted for use of protected works.

It is important to remember that licensing is different from fair use.  Fair use represents a non-licensed use of a copyrighted work made possible through a limitation to the copyright holder’s exclusive rights.  A license, however, extends specified portions of the copyright holder’s exclusive rights to contracted parties.

Licensing is becoming an increasingly important topic for librarians to consider in the digital age. New delivery and access agreements for electronic journals, e-books and databases often grant a library license to included materials for the duration of their contract, such that access is terminated when the contract ends.  Unlike with physical purchases, this licensed content may “disappear” from the library’s collection once the license is contractually terminated.   


ARL’s Licensing

Provides an introduction to issues involved with electronic licenses and libraries.

ARL’s Licensing Electronic Resources: Strategic and Practical Considerations

1997 report providing practical advice and questions to consider when considering a license agreement.

ARL’s Principles for Licensing Electronic Resources

1997 report providing background on licensing agreements as well as 15 stated principles to be followed in licensing agreements.


Copycense is an online journal published by Seso LLC with archives dating back to 2004.  According to their website, “Copycense is an online publication that provides insight, commentary, and scholarship on copyright, licensing, intellectual property, and digital media.”

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that provides users with six types of licenses with which to expand the legal use of their protected works.  

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