Copyright education process continues for Adam

Heather Hughes // Western News

Tom Adam, Copyright Librarian, is spearheading Western’s Copyright Office, the go-to resource on campus for all questions about the legislation and rights of creators and users.

“To be or not to be, that is the question.” For Tom Adam, whether a famous soliloquy such as this is safe to include in a Western course booklet raises even more questions.

As Western’s Copyright Librarian, Adam lives and breathes the nuances of the Canadian Copyright Act. He is the university’s physical resource (along with the support of the team at Western Libraries) for understanding and complying with the legislation that has great-reaching implications for work and study at Western.

“Copyright is not straight-forward. The Act is not intuitive,” Adam said.

This week (Feb. 22-26) is Fair Dealing Week in Canada and Western has joined universities across the country to raise awareness about the legislation. The university is also supporting the development of the Fair Dealing Canada website,, curated by the University of Toronto to share information and stories about employing fair dealing across the country.

In November 2012, changes to the original legislation, called the Copyright Modernization Act, extended the use of copyrighted materials, for educational use, under the Fair Dealing Exception. Even though the scope of use broadened, Adam cautioned Western users not to take this for granted. In fact, the legislation is under statutory review next year, which may result in further amendments.

“Copyright is not static. We need to make sure we are proactive to change and react to it,” he said. It is important to “understand what fair dealing allows us to do and exercise these rights so we don’t lose them.”

To make copyright legislation more user-friendly, the Western community has an online resource, the Copyright@Western website (, to answer questions and provide clarity on use. A keystone of this resource is the ‘copyright decision map,’ a five-question guide identifying the rights and responsibilities for copied materials.

Another pillar is the copyright fair dealing analysis tool, which clarifies the elusive term ‘fair’ in the fair dealing exception. This analysis tool encourages users to consider the purpose for copying; fairness; degrees of fairness; and acknowledgement of the creator and source.

Western Libraries also offers a licensed use search tool, which enables users to check the university’s license agreements for digital journals and e-books.

Having a dedicated Copyright Office and copyright librarian is Western’s answer to the confusing and ever-changing landscape of copyright legislation.

A significant part of Adam’s role is public education – both on the side of the creators of copyrighted materials, which are often faculty and researchers, and the consumers, which are most often students.

While the focus of copyright is often on the users, Adam is quick to point out Western Libraries has resources to assist creators in understanding their rights.

It is always best to check with the Copyright Office if you are unsure of your rights, he added, noting even using public domain content, such as the works of William Shakespeare, may fall prey to copyright infringements, particularly in the case of translations or annotations of the plays which may still be under copyright.

“Just because you can (copy something), doesn’t mean you should,” he said. “We need to be responsible in our stewardship of information.”

The next step in assisting the Western community will be the employment of the Ares course reserve system, a one-stop tool for faculty members to request course readings be included in a course booklet, as a PDF, available as a physical or digital reserve in the library, or available through the OWL online learning management system.

A few instructors are piloting the program currently, with the service to be made widely available in September. Western Libraries manages the tool, in collaboration with The Bookstore at Western, the Office of the Registrar and Information Technology Services. They expect it to expand to include a syllabus service, allowing instructors to provide a course syllabus – and “we do the work,” Adam said.

“We ensure we are compliant with copyright and AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) requirements,” he noted. “It’s a flexible, one-stop shop for faculty. It will be beneficial to faculty and students who are accessing and using it.”