Bethel Libraries

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Happy (belated) Birthday Rights!

Good Morning to You and Happy Birthday from Everyday Song Book

By now you may well have heard about last week’s ruling by a federal court that global music company Warner/Chappell’s claim to own the copyright for the song Happy Birthday to You (yes, the one everyone sings at birthdays) was invalid, as were the claims of all of the companies that have charged royalties for the use of the song during the last century.  If you’re at all like me, you probably had no idea that anyone would even try (much less succeed at) charging others for singing such a ubiquitously-used song, especially not to the tune of $2 million per year!  Most people, to the extent that they thought about it at all, probably assumed the song was already in the public domain (i.e., free for anyone to use however they like). But it wasn’t and it took pieces of evidence like a copy of the full-text version of the songbook held at the University of Pittsburgh Libraries to come to this ruling.

I’ll leave the explanation and analysis of the history behind this whole case to those better qualified to write about it, but I wanted to reference it as a reminder that it is important, and often helpful to more people than just yourself, to do your due diligence when dealing with issues of copyright.  Taking the route of least resistance (e.g., automatically paying license fees, assuming that a work is under copyright, leaving an assignment as it is when changing it slightly could make a use a fair use, etc.) can cause you to pay fees or scrap resources unnecessarily.  Furthermore, it allows larger companies to profit in inappropriate ways, as in the case of Happy Birthday.

An Illustrative Mistake

Here is a recent experience from my duties as the new “copyright guy” at the Bethel University Library.  This week I was helping a staff member secure rights on behalf of a professor to use something in an online course.  We went through the Copyright Clearance Center to get a quote for the use the professor wanted to make, and we found that pricing was only available by special request for this particular resource.  We made the request, and the CCC came back with a prompt and very reasonable per-student quote.  The problem is that we were also contacted separately by the rights holder in response to the CCC request, and they granted us permission to use the resource free of charge.  In other words, despite the rights holder wanting to grant us permission for free, the CCC still saw fit to try to charge us (marginal as the fee admittedly was) on a per-student basis for securing rights to use the source.  There was no notice from the CCC that the quote they were giving us consisted entirely of their service charge.

I don’t include this story primarily to malign the CCC for charging what they feel is a reasonable fee for the service they provide (though I do think their representation of this charge in their invoicing process is highly questionable).  I include it because we probably ought to have contacted the rights holder in the first place to ask for permission.  Given who the rights holder was and the presence of their work in the CCC’s database, I assumed they charged for all use of their work, and that even if we did ask directly, it would probably take much longer to hear back from the rights holder than we had.  Based on these assumptions, I didn’t bother even recommending that the professor contact the rights holder.  Given that in reality it took a single email exchange (that we didn’t even initiate!) and two days to get the rights we wanted, making those sorts of assumptions is a mistake I won’t make again soon.

If you have any copyright-related questions you can contact me at or consult the Library Copyright Guide.

Which is yes.


Spring evokes the muse.  Green things, long buried under ice and cold are awakened through some sweet mystery of God and plant.  The sun warms the earth and the heart–in climates like ours there is a shared knowledge that the dark days are past–the streets are full of bikes and the trees full of hammocks.

In the library this month, we joined e. e. cummings in celebrating everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. To us that meant combining the best things April has to offer–the changing season and those who pen it: poets.

The month began with a handful of librarians combining their creative talents and upcycling a bunch of discarded books into beautiful art–giving books a second life through mobiles, lamp shades, and wreaths.

Poetry had a very strong presence throughout the library as well.  Favorite lines of poetry were written onto windows, magnetic poetry was available in the lobby, and a poetry book art contest was organized.  Students took pages from discarded books and, using the words on the page, traced out a new poetic message.

The winners, announced only a few days ago, were Kyleen Russell & Carlos Martinez.

The month continued with a Spring Fling Primetime event that featured poetry recitations, singing, and plenty of dirt cake.

Angela Shannon’s poetry class also read some of their original works at a special Primetime event last week.

We wrapped up the festivities this week with a plant giveaway–sharing spider plant and pothos clippings from our library’s plants with the students.  All 65 plants were gone in less than two days.

We hope you were able to enjoy some of our poetry and spring events with us this month!  We enjoyed sharing the joy of warm weather and green things with the Bethel community. If you have any ideas for future events you would like to see in the library, please let us know!

Photo Credit: 1. April Harding 2-4. Erica Ross

Erica Ross is Boss


Okay, so she’s not the boss, but she is the boss of 25 student workers at the Library. Erica is the Circulation Manager at the Bethel University Library. Before coming to work at the University Library in the summer of 2013, Erica was the Circulation Coordinator at the Seminary Library. She graduated from St. Kate’s last spring with a master’s degree in Library and Information Science.

What do you look forward to most about nice Minnesotan weather?

I am so happy I can finally open the windows of my house. Also, I am determined to paint the exterior of my house this summer. It is going to happen!

What is the title of the last book you read or listened to?

I am currently listening to the audiobook, I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. We recently added it to our collection and I kept eyeing it. I am really enjoying it and learning so much! The narrator, Archie Panjabi, has a voice that is wonderful to listen to.

What app can you not live without?

Instagram. I love it. It is so addicting! I am currently managing three accounts: personal, my Etsy shop, and the BU library. Follow it @bethellibraries (my little promotional plug).


(Image: Instagram)

Etsy shop? What’s that?

Etsy is an online marketplace where people sell their homemade and vintage goods. I make sweater mittens, card catalog jewelry, and embroidered pick-up lines to sell in my shop, Bookstack Bobbins. I also make custom orders: one time, I made an embroidery hoop of Abe Lincoln holding a green Lightsaber for one of my circ. students!


(Image: Bookstack Bobbins)

What word do you almost always misspell?

Ugh. I am a horrible speller! I can’t even think of one word I spell wrong because I spell so many wrong! I always get confused with the “i before e” rule. It just doesn’t make sense! And when does an e come before or after an l? Who knows… basically spelling is not my strength.

What food can you not stand?

Peas. Peas are the worst! They just are little green mushy things that pop in your mouth and the flavor is horrible. Gross!

What are you currently binge-watching?

I love Netflix! My husband and I just finished binge-watching Broadchurch. So gooooooood! But my husband and I are still suffering from withdrawal after finishing seasons 1-5 of The Walking Dead.


(Image: Wikipedia)

Do you know any random handy dandy tips or tricks?

After you paint your nails, spray on some Pam Cooking Spray on top of the wet polish. It will dry instantly. Don’t forget to wash the oil off after!

Would you rather hear a constant buzzing noise or have the same song stuck in your head?

I would rather hear the same song over and over because then I could have little mini dance parties in my head.

Would you rather read one sentence of a book a day or read the same book over and over again?

Probably the same book over and over again, but both would be painful!

Any random facts you would like us to know?

I have had my ears pierced since I was 1 day old.

If you have any questions for Erica, please feel free to stop by the library, send her an email, or give her a call!

Erica Ross