Librarian Highlight: Kenny Crews

 Kenneth Crews

 Name:  Kenny Crews

Title:  Director, Copyright Advisory Office

Subject specialities: Copyright and related issues as they are important to the work of libraries and universities.

Contact info: or just drop by if you see the door open in Butler Library, room 507.

Library: Columbia Copyright Advisory Office (CAO)

@ Columbia since: 2008

Education info:  My family taught me how to fend for myself and fight for whatever I am going to get.  Years of sparring over the law have taught me how to endure blows and try to be diplomatic.  I also went to college.  I studied history at Northwestern University, law at Washington University, and I earned a Master’s and a Ph.D. at UCLA in library and information science.

About me:  I’m a copyright lawyer and librarian, working with Columbia University Libraries. The CAO has a central mission to address, in a creative and constructive manner, the relationship between copyright law and the work of the university in order to best promote research, teaching, library services, and community involvement.

I like to work hard and have adventures in travel and ideas whenever I can.  I like rock and roll and Broadway musicals.  I am married to Elizabeth Crews, and we have two grown children and a little fluffy dog.  I like to learn more about my colleagues, so please feel free to introduce yourself. I also recently completed the manuscript for the third edition of my book, Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators: Creative Strategies and Practical Solutions.  It should be available in early 2011.

What’s new:  Each day in copyright brings a steady flow of new things, and I find the change and dynamism of the work to be exciting.  Here is a brief list of some things on my desk right now:

  • Meetings and communications around the University to encourage open access of scholarly works.
  • Reviews and recommendations about publication agreements.
  • National initiative to include “author rights” language in agreements for the acquisition of journal databases.
  • Supreme Court ruling this week affecting the importation of foreign copyrighted works.
  • Copyright bill that actually made its way through the lame-duck Congress and was signed by the President.
  • Meeting about the digitization and access to sound recordings.
  • Meeting about digitization of maps.
  • Proposed language for a possible international treaty on copyright law for libraries and education.
  • Court ruling from the Netherlands that affects access to and downloading of materials there from the internet.
  • Inquiry about the lawfulness of a work of art that is actually made up of lines of computer code that is executable (I am not kidding).
  • Wondering if the court will rule today on the Google Books settlement and what that ruling might mean for us.

Personal favorite:  I refer regularly to some of the extensive treatises on copyright law, especially Nimmer on Copyright. For more provocative thinking, I have enjoyed The Soul of Creativity by Roberta Rosenthal Kwall and The Public Domain by James Boyle.

Recommended resources:  If you have questions about fair use, permissions, publication agreements, the duration of copyright, and more, try the CAO website: I am always happy when people have taken a look at the materials on the website before asking the a question. I welcome your comments!

I also refer frequently to the website of the U.S. Copyright Office ( It provides easy access to informative "circulars" about copyright issues as well as the current Copyright Act, historical materials, and a trove of background materials about the latest developments in the law.