Library “Gifts” And Copyright Harvesting – AUTHOR BEWARE! By Heather Vallance

Let me begin by saying I truly enjoy your newsletter. I have learned many things about writing since I began subscribing.

I did however, want to make a few comments about Heather Vallance’s recent article.
I thought the article was excellent and insightful. Writers ALWAYS need to be vigilant when they are asked to sign any forms, particularly if there is any mention of “copyright”. So I commend her for pointing out this issue.

However, as a librarian for over 13-years (in a public library) I have never seen such a document. We do offer a tax exempt form for donations so any donors get a bit of a tax break. As for a form regarding any rights, I’ve never seen it.

I personally have requested many books from authors who have done programs at my library to add to our collection, and have never had any form for them to sign at all. I cannot speak for educational, legal or other libraries, but such a document would probably be considered illegal by the ALA. As a public library we are not in the business of acquiring copyrights to any books.

I wanted to let your readers/authors know this, particularly now when library budgets across the country are being slashed. Many are barely hanging on with very little funds, dozens have closed and right now we are asking authors for donations of their books more often than we’ve ever had to in the past. Please don’t let this article and the few libraries who might do this, dissuade authors from donating to their public library, we need their continued support now more than ever.

Thank you,
Linda McMaken
aka the Looney Librarian


While we’d all like to think every librarian is as kind as Linda, the fact is that library policies are often governed by the higher-ups and public libraries are using “gift” contracts that take rights from authors and/or that claim the right to reproduce an author’s work with no payment to the author.

And, while we’d like to think that all authors read contracts in their entirety, many people don’t. That is why we have alerted our readers to this practice.

Here are a few examples:

Public Library of Nashville and Davidson County:

“Where applicable, said materials will be made available to the public for research after processing by staff,
and may be microfilmed, photocopied, or otherwise reproduced or reformatted by the Nashville Public

Polk County Public Library:

“When you sign the gift agreement, you transfer legal ownership of the actual materials you want to donate. Ownership of intellectual property rights (primarily copyright, but including trademarks and patent rights) may also be legally transferred by the deed of gift. Copyright generally belongs to the creator of writings or other original material (such as photographs and music). Donors are encouraged to transfer all rights they possess in and to the materials donated to the repository.”

City of Boulder Public Library:

“I am the owner of these materials and now give and assign to the library, without restriction, the legal title, property rights, and all rights of copyright which I have in them, including the rights to reproduce, publish, and display the materials.”

The Denver Public Library:

“Copyright belongs to the creator of the material or his or her heirs, but can be legally transferred to the Denver Public Library via the Acquisitions Agreement.”

The Bryan + College Station Public Library System:

“I, the undersigned Donor, hereby donate and convey to The Bryan + College Station Public Library System on behalf of the Carnegie Center of Brazos Valley History, hereinafter “Carnegie Center”, all rights, title, and interest that I possess in the following materials…”

San Luis Obispo County Library:

“Non-copyrighted materials donated to the library require gift agreement documents signed by the donors transferring total ownership and copyright to the library.”