Computers in Libraries
Vol. 21, No. 6 • June 2001 

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Safe Legal Advice
by Kathy Dempsey 

Legal issues are the sorts of things, I think, that everyone wants to read about but no one wants to write about. Anything with legal implications can quickly become a touchy subject. I know I don't feel safe giving legal advice, for fear that I could be liable in some way if my advice somehow led to problems. 

Thankfully, there are some authorities out there who are willing to share advice, information, and tips. For instance, we're lucky enough to have an author this month who works at the CCC—the infamous and all-powerful Copyright Clearance Center. (Well, at least that's the way I've always thought of the CCC.) Dave Davis explains a hot topic that's often misunderstood: digital rights management. Find out the real deal by turning to page 36.

The other way to learn is by letting real people tell you their real stories. This is what CIL magazine really excels at. We have two "real-life stories" this month. One traces the path of a group of academic librarians as they begin to set up an electronic reserves system. They had to wade through legalities on topics like copyright clearance, linking, fair use, and scanning documents that the library didn't own. Sound scary? Well, these folks did it and lived to tell the tale. Read all about it starting on page 40.

And for all you Webmasters out there who are wondering what you can link to without fear of prosecution, read about Shirley Kennedy's various lessons and experiences. This longtime librarian and self-made Webmaster, who writes the Internet Waves column for the Information Today newspaper, knows a few of the ins and outs of Web site design. And she always manages to relate her stories with plenty of humor, which makes topics like this oh-so-much-more enjoyable! Check out her article on page 30.

While this issue can tell you about your peers' experiences and get you up-to-date on some terms and topics, I won't promise that it gives you all the answers. If there was one idea that I noticed popping up over and over again, in both the features and the columns, it's this: There are an awful lot of unanswered questions in the areas of digital copyright, privacy, and electronic information as a whole. Some questions are in court and some are still murmurings that haven't been formally addressed yet. So there is still a lot of "wait and see" in the library legal arena now, but fear not—sprinkled throughout our pages you'll also find pointers to a wealth of resources that will keep you apprised of all the upcoming legal decisions. Many are Web sites devoted to these legal issues or alert services that will tell you when there's something new that you need to know. 

So while I don't feel safe giving out legal advice, I do feel safe advising you to read this whole issue and to keep it close by for a long time to come. 

Kathy Dempsey, Editor

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