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Licensing e-Resources FAQ

Electronic information resources offer enormous benefits. They provide users faster, more convenient, 24-hour desktop access from home or campus, as well as special features such as hypertext links to related information, graphics, audio, video, and animation. These resources also offer benefits to libraries – they don’t take up valuable space on library shelves, they can’t be stolen or destroyed, and, depending on the license agreement, they allow more than one user to access information at the same time.

 

Significant portions of the five CU libraries’ collection dollars are spent on electronic resources. Almost every electronic book, database, and journal provided by the CU Libraries has been licensed. Each publisher’s license agreement outlines specific terms and conditions under which the resources may be used. Within each CU library and campus, licenses go through several layers of review and negotiation before they are signed. The CU Libraries Electronic Resources Task Force has prepared answers for licensing questions commonly asked by CU faculty, staff, and students.

 

Q. Why do libraries license information resources instead of buying them?

A. Licensing resources in electronic format allows libraries to provide access to many more titles than they could afford to purchase and shelve in paper format. These resources also provide superior indexing, retrieval, and access capabilities. Some electronic resources may only be available through a license agreement.

Q. What is a license agreement?

A. A license agreement is a contract between an intellectual property owner (or licensor) and a potential user (or licensee). Unlike print resources, libraries do not own most electronic or digital resources. Instead, a license agreement is negotiated and signed with each owner which allows the library’s users to access the electronic information for a specified amount of time for a specified fee.

Q. Are there clauses and terms basic to every license or is each one different?

A. Most digital information licenses include detailed language that specifies who has the right to access the information, how the information may be used, stored, and transmitted, who is liable for violations or misuse of the information by library users, whether the information will be permanently accessible, and the charges for accessing the information.

Q. Are there restrictions on use common to most license agreements?

A. Although each license is unique, common restrictions found in licenses for digital information products include the following:

 

  • The content may be used only for non-commercial educational, clinical, or research purposes.
  • Individuals who are not affiliated with the library that has licensed the product may not use the content, or may use content only when physically at the library.
  • Printing and downloading of e-resources are generally subject to copyright restrictions.
  • Altering, recompiling, systematic or programmatic copying, reselling, redistributing or republishing of electronic content are typically prohibited.

Q. Who is an authorized user?

A. The definition of an authorized user depends on the terms set out in the license of a particular electronic resource. Generally authorized users are the registered students, faculty, and staff of the institution purchasing the electronic resource. In many cases, authorized users also include members of the public who use the e-resource on library premises.

Q. How do you know what license agreement is in effect for a particular e-resource and what the specific terms are?

A. Consult the reference staff at the library to find out the specific terms in effect for a particular e-resource. Some distributors of electronic content publish general license terms on the website where the content is accessed. Others block activities that violate the license terms.

Q. What constitutes a breach of license terms and what are the penalties?

A. Each individual license details uses that constitute a failure to follow the license agreement and the penalties for such violations. For example, breach of contract may occur when unauthorized users access the electronic material, or when a user prints more pages than the contract allows. Penalties usually involve suspension or termination of access to at least the violator and possibly the University. The University may add additional penalties applicable to faculty, staff or students who violate licenses.

Q. How does the library ensure that electronic information is used according to the terms and conditions of each license?

A. The library includes information on the legal use of electronic resources in class instruction sessions, on its website, and through instruction at the reference desk. The library also monitors general usage trends of each electronic resource, while respecting rights of confidentiality of library users, and works in conjunction with electronic providers to identify possible violations of licensing agreements.

Q. What happens if you violate a license agreement?

A. Distributors of electronic content use various tools to monitor types of usage but not individual usage. They look for large-scale violations, such as systematic downloading of substantial portions of an electronic title. In these cases, whether the violations occur knowingly or unknowingly, the vendor will contact the library that holds the license and may suspend the university’s access to the resource. In order to have access restored libraries must take sufficient measures, such as warning the offender or department, to satisfy the provider that appropriate action has been taken to prevent future violations.

Q. Why are some e-resources available from home and others are not?

A. License agreements require libraries to screen for status before allowing access. Some e-resources require passwords for authentication. The most common strategy for authentication is to register campus IP addresses, the official Internet identification numbers for computers located on each institution’s secure network. If you access e-resources from a campus computer, your IP address is recognized and access granted. If you want to access e-resources from home, you may need to do so by going through a university computer with a recognized IP address. You can do this by connecting through Virtual Private Networking (VPN), or by connecting through the campus modem pool or through the library’s “proxy server.”  More information on these remote access connection methods can be found at http://ucblibraries.colorado.edu/research/offcampusaccess.htm If you connect to the library's proxy server, please be aware that not every electronic journal title will be available full-text due to space limits on the server. Also, some publishers of electronic resources do not permit remote access and may limit use of their product to one building or one site. Some e-resources are only accessible via passwords available from the reference desk.  Contact the libraries if you have trouble accessing an e-resource.

Q. Why can’t I download an entire journal issue?

A. License terms do not permit copying or downloading entire issues of a journal. This is also a violation of basic copyright principles.

Q. Can I e-mail full-text articles to individuals who are not affiliated with CU?

A. As a general rule, you may not e-mail full-text articles to unauthorized users.

Q. How can I access e-resources from another CU library?

A. License terms generally restrict the use of an e-resource to a particular campus or set of campus users. There are many electronic resources available across the CU system, and the five CU libraries work cooperatively to license e-resources across the campuses when vendors and funding allow. In most cases, for e-resources that are only purchased by one CU library, faculty, staff and students from the other CU campuses must physically go to the subscribing library to access the resource. Check with the reference desk before traveling to another library to make sure you will be able to access a specific resource.

Q. Who can I contact in the Boulder campus Libraries with additional questions on licensed resources or copyright questions?

A. Contact the Faculty Director for Electronic Resources Development & Information Delivery, Yem Fong at Judith.Fong@colorado.edu.