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The Collation

Folger Tooltips: Introducing "Folger Collection, by Folger Readers"

The purpose of this post is to introduce a new venue for you, Dear Readers, to post, share, and comment on photos taken by in the course of your research here: a new Flickr group, “Folger Collection, by Folger Readers”.

But first, some background …

Our Current Reading Room Camera Use Policy

As anyone who has worked in our New or Old Reading Rooms in the last 18 months or so knows, we now have a Reading Room Camera Use Policy, which states (in part, but be sure to read the whole thing!):

Researchers may take photographs of collection materials as allowed by the library, based on the physical condition of the materials, copyright law, donor restrictions and reading room regulations.

Classroom use is encouraged, as is use for personal study, scholarship, research and other noncommercial activities. Photographs may be made for personal or noncommercial uses, provided that researchers include copyright notice where applicable, and the statement “Photo by [Your Name Here] courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.”

Just how popular has this been? My colleagues in the Reading Room report (and I concur, as an occasional Saturday Reading Room Supervisor) that it has been overwhelmingly popular, while at the same time remaining something that can be accommodated under our existing recommendations for Care and Handling of Rare Materials.

So how did we get here?

  1. Of course IANAL, but for a useful overview designed for educators and librarians of the legal concept of the public domain, check out Stanford’s Copyright & Fair Use site, or more particularly, their essay “Welcome to the Public Domain”; or, for a quick look-up, have a look at Cornell’s handy chart, “Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States”, most recently updated on Jan. 1, 2012.


To give a little data point of background to the number of readers wielding digital cameras, we have a total of 157 readers who have signed up to use cameras in the Reading Room!

Alan Katz — January 12, 2012

Hi there, thanks for the post on a thorny issue. I’m interested in how the Folger is dealing with in-copyright materials with potential for commercial exploitation such as production photographs, costume designs and works of art. Do you allow copying of these materials? Do copyright-holders not feel that publishing on the Library’s Flickr could contravene copyright? I’ve got experience of both sides, having managed copyright collections for years, and now publishing my own blog, The Shakespeare blog.

Sylvia Morris — January 21, 2012

Thanks for your question, which is a good one. Three things are worth pointing out about the Folger camera use policy as it relates to copyright: first, the policy does not permit reader photography of in-copyright material; second, those wishing to use a camera in our reading rooms are required to sign a copy of our policy, thereby indicating their receipt and acceptance of these limitations; and finally, this policy states that “the Library reserves the right to deny or revoke permission to photograph any of its collection materials.” Further, our flickr group includes the rule that additions must be “Photos of non-copyrighted material from the Folger collections.” Those who join the flickr group agree to this (and other) rules, and all photo contributions to the flickr pool are moderated. All of these seem like reasonable approaches for encouraging copyright-compliant open inquiry and research.

Jim Kuhn — January 23, 2012