May 16, 2022

ALA Council Adopts Revisions To “Copyright: an Interpretation of the Code of Ethics”

From the American Library Association:

At ALA’s Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, ALA Council adopted revisions to “Copyright: An Interpretation of the Code of Ethics” a document first adopted in 2014.

The changes, proposed by the Committee on Professional Ethics (COPE), strengthened “Copyright: An Interpretation of the Code of Ethics” by adding legal citations; expanding the text to include definitions of important principles for “Fair Use” and “First Sale Doctrine”; and  addressing digital licensing agreements. The interpretation has also been broadened to encompass all types of libraries and material formats.

In addition to presenting the revised interpretation to ALA Council for adoption, the Committee on Professional Ethics adopted significant revisions to two supplementary documents: “Ethics and Social Media Q&A” (published in 2013) and “Enforcement of the Code of Ethics Q&A” (published in 2009).

Social media has created unprecedented opportunities for information sharing and for community building and engagement; it has also raised numerous ethical concerns. “Ethics and Social Media Q&A” provides guidance in navigating ethical concerns that arise from using social media in a professional capacity. During the revision process, COPE took into account the “Social Media Guidelines for Public and Academic Libraries,” recently published by the Intellectual Freedom Committee, to avoid duplication and shift the focus of the “Ethics and Social Media Q&A” to how library workers use social media in a professional capacity.

In the “Enforcement of the Code of Ethics Q&A,”  the committee updated language and links, and reformatted questions to allow for better comprehension and readability. The content and purpose behind the document has not changed: The ALA Code of Ethics offers guidelines for responsible behavior and sets forth a common basis for resolving ethical dilemmas encountered in daily practice.  The Q&A explains why ALA as a voluntary membership organization, does not enforce the Code of Ethics and what organizations and individuals can do to help ensure that the values and the principles of the Code are upheld.

The ALA Code of Ethics and supplementary documents can be found on the ALA website.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.