Guidelines for Selection of Electronic Publications: Licensing Terms and Conditions
Providers of electronic publications often employ license agreements to
control the use of their products. While selectors do not negotiate or approve
licenses, they should read and understand them so that they become aware of the
licensing constraints and limitations that define the content of the publication
purchased and how our patrons can use and access that publication. In addition,
selectors will often find the license to be an invaluable source of information
about the product which often contains information not found elsewhere in the
site. A selector should consider the following factors for any license agreement
that the Libraries must sign as well as any click-through or mass-market license
or other terms and conditions.
What Is a License?
At its most basic, a license is an agreement to convey rights to use property
for a limited period of time to a party that would not otherwise have the right
to use the property that the agreement covers. A vendor or publisher will not
always refer to this agreement as a "license"; the agreement may also appear
under terms such as "Terms and Conditions," "Conditions of Use," or "Terms of
Where Can I Find the License?
Publishers often provide a copy of their standard license on the website of
the publication or publisher. Selectors may also request a copy from the
publisher or other vendor. The "license" can take the form of a formal license
agreement that the Libraries must sign to receive access or appear as a list of
"Terms and Conditions" or "Conditions of Use" that claims to apply to any access
of the publication. A vendor may also provide different licenses for different
categories of purchasers (for example, institutional versus individual).
Selectors should attach a copy of the license agreement (or if more than one
seems appropriate, license agreements) as well as any other terms and conditions
to the Electronic Resource Request Form.
What Publications Does the License Cover?
A selector should check the license to ensure that the license satisfactorily
describes the publication or bundle of publications that the selector expects to
receive. Licenses often describe the titles covered by the license in a
definition of the "Subscribed Journals," "Publications," or "Works."
Who Will the Publisher Allow to Access the Publication?
Licenses usually describe who qualifies as an "Authorized User" or "Permitted
User." The selector should examine the definition to determine those persons or
groups included and those excluded. Some licenses limit access to those
affiliated with the institution. Because UMD serves the public, if a license
does not include persons physically present in the library within the definition
of "authorized user," Acquisitions must renegotiate the provision.
How Will Our Users Access the Publication?
Access provisions in a license determine how and where users may access
licensed works. Selectors should check to ensure that the license provides for
access through IP addresses and does not require user identification or
passwords. Selectors should also examine the number of concurrent users and IP
address subnets permitted as well as additional limitations on access such as
geographic restrictions. The UMD campus currently includes three class B
subnets. Access to class C subnets or a limited number of individual computers
will not provide campus-wide access.
What Are the Payment Provisions?
The selector should examine any terms of payment in the license to ensure
that the terms reflect the selector's understanding of payment requirements.
Selectors should note that not all licenses address payment; this does not mean
that payment is not required.
When Will the Subscription End?
License agreements can bind the Libraries beyond the period of the standard
one-year subscription. The selector should closely examine the specified
duration of the agreement and identify any limits or penalties for cancellation.
Is There a Non-cancellation Clause?
License agreements sometimes contain non-cancellation clauses that require
the Libraries to promise to maintain past expenditures for a specified period of
time. In exchange, the publisher or vendor may promise to cap price increases
for the period of non-cancellation. These clauses can potentially create
problems, because they decrease the Libraries' control over the budget. For
example, a non-cancellation clause could force the Libraries in the future to
decrease expenditures on other resources so that the Libraries can pay for
resources protected by the clause. To date, the Libraries have not agreed to any
What Happens to the Content When the Subscription Ends?
The selector should determine whether the University of Maryland receives
permanent rights to the publication and keeps the information for which it has
paid in the event of cancellation or purchases only access rights for a defined
period of time. If the Libraries do purchase content (instead of only access),
the selector should clarify whether the provider guarantees the perpetual
availability of purchased content and what happens to that content if the
Libraries change providers, agents, or vendors.
Are There Any Restrictions on Use?
The selector should examine any restrictions on the rights of the Libraries
to use the publication such as limits on interlibrary loan, course packs, or
electronic reserves, or other limitations on fair use for non-commercial
educational, instructional or research purchases. A license may also restrict
users' viewing, downloading or printing or limit UMD's right to reformat data or
provide links to other UMD holdings.
Are the Libraries Responsible for Unauthorized Use?
Some license agreements have provisions that hold the library liable for
unauthorized use of the resource by its users. Acquisitions will examine any
such provision and renegotiate it, if appropriate.
Governing Law, Venue, Jurisdiction
A license usually specifies the law that will govern if a dispute arises as
well as the court or arbitration panel who will decide the dispute. As a
Maryland institution, the Libraries cannot sign an agreement that provides for
any law, venue, or jurisdiction other than Maryland; Acquisitions will
renegotiate any such provision.
Some license agreements may require the Libraries to take financial
responsibility for damages that the publisher may suffer (usually referred to as
"indemnification and liability"). Acquisitions will renegotiate all such
Inconsistencies Between License and Website
The contents of the signed license may often prevail over any conflicting
language found in the website. The selector should make sure to compare the
license's provisions with other information in the site and highlight or note
any discrepancies so that they may be addressed in the negotiation of the