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Refreshing Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Copyright Web Presence

May 4, 2019

By Alan Kilpatrick

Good afternoon. In Fall 2017, I began a project to refresh and update Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s copyright website.  One year later, in Fall 2018, we launched a new public-facing copyright site for students, as well as an internal copyright site for staff, faculty, and course developers.  Members of the Sask Polytech community who want to learn more about copyright need look no further than these resources.  We’re excited about these new websites!  I encourage you to check out our new public site at library.saskpolytech.ca/copyright.

During the project, I learned about best practices for library copyright websites, information architecture, and about communicating a complex topic like copyright effectively.  I’d like to share what I learned.  I was fortunate to receive this opportunity to work as a casual Copyright Consultant with Sask Polytech’s Copyright Office, Rita Schiller, Tasha Maddison, and Rian Misfeldt on this project.  I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for allowing me to contribute.

Why Refresh Sask Polytech’s copyright web presence?  The refresh was long overdue.  Our existing copyright site was out of date.  Rian, Rita, and I had several goals in mind.  First, we wanted to update the content, organization, and structure of the site.  Next, we wanted to ensure that Sask Polytech’s copyright site aligned with copyright content from other postsecondary institutions.  We wanted to use the site to better educate the Sask Polytech community about copyright, to promote awareness of copyright compliant practices, and to minimize potential copyright infractions.  Finally, we wanted the site to demonstrate that Sask Polytech takes copyright seriously.

Sask Polytech’s IT department helped us articulate these goals.  They asked us to define the primary goal of the site, the primary demographic, the ideal user scenario, and so.  A recurring theme of this project was collaboration.  The reason this project was successful was because we collaborated with many different groups across campus to accomplish it.

Rian asked me to begin by identifying best practices for academic copyright websites, to look for effective features we might want to include, and to develop recommendations for our own site.  I surveyed a variety of copyright sites from institutions across Canada and conducted a brief literature review.  These three papers, Copyright Practices and Approaches at Canadian Universities, Copyright Communication in Canadian Academic Libraries, and Webpages on Copyright in Canadian Academic Libraries do an excellent job of investigating best practices as well as effective ways to communicate copyright to a postsecondary community.   Here are the best practices I identified.  These extend to any Library copyright website, not just an academic one.

• Copyright websites are visible and accessible: Generally available within a few clicks of the academic library homepage, accessible via the institution’s search engine, and a visible pillar of copyright education.

• They’re clearly worded. Lengthy text passages do a poor job of communicating a topic as intimidating as copyright. To aid comprehension, concise language, broken into short paragraphs, should be used.

• They’re well organized. Most feature a simple main page that introduces copyright. Straightforward links should be provided from this main page to separate pages containing more detailed information on copyright subtopics.

• They’re educational. Many students and faculty lack copyright confidence.  The site should educate visitors about essential copyright concepts and provide basic guidance.  During my survey, I found that there was much similarity regarding the concepts presented on copyright sites.

• They should provide contact information. Users should be immediately alerted as to where they can get additional assistance.  That’s why we provide contact information for our Copyright Office prominently on our site’s homepage.

• They should promote respect for copyright. As an institution, we have a responsibility to promote respect for the law.  The site should include links to relevant policies, court cases, legislation, as well as provide a legal disclaimer.

• Finally, they should promote alternatives. The site should include links to copyright friendly resources: public domain, Creative Commons, royalty free, open access, and so on.

After some discussion, we decided to create two sites: a public-facing one as well as an internal one.  We wanted the public site to focus on Sask Polytech students, potential students, as well as the outside world and to provide a general high-level overview of foundational concepts.  We decided the internal site would focus on our faculty, course developers, and staff and would build on the foundation of the public site by providing guidance regarding copyright and course development.

Copyright is a complex topic.  I found that some academic copyright sites are overwhelming in the way they organize and present content.  I worked hard to make our public site’s sitemap as straightforward as possible.  I modeled it after the simple navigation I found on the University of Regina and University of Alberta copyright sites. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug influenced me to create page names that were as clear as possible.  I didn’t want visitors to be confused about the information they would find on any given page.  What is Copyright?, Why Should I Care About Copyright?, and Get Help, are all examples of this.

While writing the public site’s content, I focused on making the language clear and understandable.  My goal was to provide a good overview without overwhelming visitors.  Many postsecondary copyright sites contain a large amount of Creative Commons licensed content.  For example, copyright sites for the University of Saskatchewan, University of Waterloo, University of British Columbia, and the University of Regina contain content licensed under a generous Creative Commons license.  I took advantage of this and reused some of their content on our site.

I did encounter some academic copyright sites that don’t present concepts in a way that is easily understandable to those who aren’t copyright experts.  For example, many prominently feature fair dealing on their homepages.  Fair dealing is certainly a key concept to know about.  However, the background necessary to enable someone to understand fair dealing isn’t always readily provided.  It’s difficult to really understand what fair dealing is unless you have a grasp of all sorts of foundational concepts.  For example, what is copyright, why should anyone care about copyright, copyright balance, owner’s rights, and user’s exceptions.

Here’s a breakdown of the content on our public site:

• The Homepage introduces visitors to copyright practices at Sask Polytech and prominently features the Copyright Office’s contact information.

What is Copyright? presents visitors with a simple introduction to copyright’s key concepts.

Why Should I Care About Copyright? bluntly explains why visitors should care about copyright.  It features this excellent infographic from the University of Regina.

• It can be difficult to know where to start. Before You Copy presents students with five essential questions they should ask before reproducing content.

Using Copyrighted Materials describes a variety of factors visitors should be aware of when using copyrighted materials: fair dealing, exceptions, licenced resources, obtaining permission, and so on.

Copyright Friendly Resources has links to public domain, Creative Commons, and open access resources.

• Finally, Get Help provides visitors with the Copyright Office’s contact information.  The message stressed here is that the Copyright Office is here to help.

To launch the public site, I worked with Kelly Burke, Sask Polytech’s Digital Ecosystems Librarian, to create a visual mock-up and to upload the content.  Rita, Rian, and Tasha all reviewed the site’s content and provided feedback.

Work on our internal site began next.  It builds on the foundation of the public site.  We encourage faculty, staff, and course developers to review the public site before the internal one.  We wanted this site to contain practical information, real-world examples, and to provide faculty and staff with solid guidance.  Its based on the same best practices as the public site and has an equally straightforward sitemap.

We’ve received some very positive feedback from Sask Polytech staff, students, and faculty.  We wanted to share what we’ve accomplished with you today.  Thank you.  Are there any questions?

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