2022 Plenary – Kyle K. Courtney

2022 Acquisitions Institute Plenary

Kyle K. Courtney

Rent NOT to Own: Copyright, Licensing, & the Library Revolution

Licensing is destroying the core access, acquisition, collection development, and preservation functions in libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions. While nearly all the major publishers charge libraries higher licensing fees than the consumer prices for the same material, they also place strict limitations on how the licensed content can be used, shared, or loaned. Worse, each license does not confer any ownership under the law – these acquisitions are, at best, temporary rentals. This directly impacts an organization’s ability to serve their communities. As a result, many communities lack meaningful access to materials needed for education, research, entertainment, and general learning. However, there has been a recent effort to fix the acquisitions and collection management strategies that are more representative of the modern and unique library mission. States such as RI, CT, NY, and MD represent a new hopeful front in the licensing problem: state contract and consumer protection laws. Join this plenary session for a discussion of the fundamental policies driving our work, and the potential new laws that are harnessing the coercive power of the states to assert the library mission through “reasonable terms” more reflective of the library mission to preserve the significant legal and fiscal value in collections and continue to help libraries provide open, non-discriminatory, access to materials. These new laws may be shifting the tide, weaponizing the very tool that has been wielded against libraries for decades: licenses.


Kyle K. Courtney

Kyle K. Courtney is a lawyer, librarian, and the Copyright Advisor at Harvard University, working out of Harvard Library’s Office for Scholarly Communication. He works closely with the Harvard community to establish a culture of shared understanding of copyright issues among Harvard staff, faculty, and students. His “Copyright First Responders” initiative is in its ninth year, and has spread beyond Harvard to reach libraries, archives, museums, and cultural institutions in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Washington, and Rhode Island. He serves on boards and legal advisory committees for various law, library, and open access institutions including Library Futures, the Buddhist Digital Resource Center, the American Law Institute’s (Restatement of Copyright project), and the @EveryLibrary Super PAC. Kyle holds a J.D. with distinction in Intellectual Property Law and a MSLIS. He is a published author and nationally recognized expert on the topic of copyright, technology, cultural institutions, and the law. His blog is at kylecourtney.com and you can follow him on Twitter @KyleKCourtney.