ARL / SLA Videoconference
De-Mystifying the Licensing of Electronic Resources
March 4, 1999
Summary and Notes from the Discussion
This videoconference at the Gutman Conference Center was attended by
twenty-six librarians from Harvard and MIT. The session consisted of two
broadcast segments, a pre- and post-conference discussion, and a license
review activity. A videotape of the session will be available;
contact OIS for more information. Copies of the handouts may be
requested from Patti Fucci in OIS (5-3724).
- Introductory Discussion
In the brief period before the presentation, participants were asked to
identify licensing issues of current concern. Two were mentioned:
- The definition of "site" – some vendors are defining sites and
pricing site-wide licenses in terms of geographic diffusion (i.e. the number
of municipalities in which an institution is located) and/or network
architecture (e.g. the number of Class B and/or Class C networks). Both of
these definitions present particular problems for Harvard.
- Who is the licensee? – if an individual library at Harvard signs a license,
is the licensee Harvard University (i.e. "The President and Fellows of
Harvard College"), or the individual library or faculty that signed the
During the break, participants reviewed a mock license to identify
problematic areas and suggest changes. Examples of issues and desired
- Site defined as "Single organization" – this terminology did not
seem to satisfactorily define the site. Deleting the clause "at a single
location" was recommended to forestall an interpretation that would
preclude multiple buildings and remote access.
- One suggestion: seek a definition from an authoritative entity such as
the organization’s Human Resources department.
- Language should explicitly allow walk-in users.
- ‘Students, faculty and staff’ should not have restrictive qualifiers such
as ‘full-time,’ ‘permanent,’ etc.
- IP address – if used, make sure this is plural to allow for multiple ip
addresses and/or domains
- Restricting to authorized users
- Licensee should only have to use ‘reasonable effort’ to restrict – make
sure this language is specified
- Don’t accept restriction to ‘on-site’ use, make sure remote access is
- To avoid limiting use to only the examples given, include language such as
"including but not limited to"
- Make sure use limits do not preclude the sharing of research results
outside the University as mandated by University research guidelines
- Explicitly include reference to ‘fair use’
The group was invited to identify additional major issues related to
licensing of electronic information and suggest ways in which we might go
about addressing them. Concerns mentioned included:
- When information is accessed via an external provider, performance is no
longer under local control. The information provider should be asked to assume
specific performance obligations in the license.
Local vs. Consortial Licensing
- May entail loss of control over contract provisions
- Problematic timeframes for decision-making – decisions often must be made
more quickly than institution can accomplish; conversely. cooperative
decisions may slow things down when institution is ready to move forward
Educating and Informing Staff and End-Users about Usage Provisions
- All agreed that this was an important area to work on. Librarians need to
know who may use a given resource, whether it can be used to answer reference
questions for outside users, whether it may be used for ILL, etc. Colleagues
from MIT shared their strategies for this with us. MIT scans in copies of all
licenses for access by library staff, and summarizes key provisions for
end-users via a license icon beside each resource when applicable. It was
noted that this activity is very labor-intensive and difficult to keep up
In summary, workshop participants commented favorably on the usefulness of
the videoconference format and the activity / discussion components.