Glossary created by Berkman Center team

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Material breach (of a contract)

A violation of a contract serious enough that the person harmed may compel performance and collect damages, and/or terminate the contract.

A contract is fundamentally a list of terms to which the parties have agreed – things each party has agreed to do or not do. However, no contract, no matter how complex or carefully written, can foresee every possible eventuality. Therefore, it will sometimes happen that a party to a contract will violate one or more of the contract’s terms. Sometimes the breach will be deliberate, sometimes accidental, sometimes driven by circumstance. The question that arises, in the case of a breach, is what will be done about the violation.

Typically, minor violations of a contract mean only that the person harmed by the violation can collect only actual damages. If the breach is sufficiently immaterial these damages may well be zero.

However, substantial violations, which are also known as material breaches, are a different story. They are material breaches because the breached clauses fundamentally matter to the contract. Such breaches typically mean that the injured party can legally compel performance of the contract in addition to collecting damages. Of course, a particular contract may contain specific provisions for what will happen in the case of a material breach.

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A monopoly is exclusive control over a particular resource.

A copyright in a particular work can usefully be conceived of as a monopoly over that work and its uses, albeit for a limited time.

Economic theory typically sees most monopolies as inefficient uses of resources. These inefficiencies are harm to the public good. This harm is justified in copyright law by claiming that the incentives a monopoly provides to would-be creators balance it out. However, this view of things is being challenged more and more in recent years by critics who feel that copyright terms are too long, or that creators have motivations other than monetary reward.

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Moral Rights

Broadly speaking, the set of rights in a work that give control over the existence or fate of a work, rather than over its economic exploitation.

Moral rights (a translation of the French concept “droit moral”) in a creative work are the corollary to the economic rights. They represent the rights in a work that are inherent in its status as a creative work and in its relationship with its creator. While they are statutorily reinforced, they typically are thought of as existing on their own. That is, they are much closer to being “natural” rights. Perhaps because of the nature of the rights, they are more often associated with visual works, such as painting or sculpture, than with “informational” works, such as texts.

The Berne Convention explicitly recognizes moral rights, but U.S. law does not officially recognize moral rights, which is an ongoing source of tension between U.S. law and that of other Berne Convention members. The U.S, maintains that its laws have sufficient provisions in place, such as the Visual Artists Rights Act, to accommodate moral rights.

Article 6bis (1) of the Berne convention reads:

“ (1) Independently of the author's economic rights, and even after the transfer of the said rights, the author shall have the right to claim authorship of the work and to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of, or other derogatory action in relation to, the said work, which would be prejudicial to his honor or reputation.”

The enumeration of moral rights varies from country to country, but they are most often listed as:

  • The right of paternity -- to claim authorship (or disclaim it, in the event of unauthorized change).
  • The right of integrity -- to approve of or object to any modification, distortion or change to the work.
  • The right of withdrawal -- to remove a work from the public sphere at will.
  • The right of release -- the right to control when a work is seen by the public.

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Mortenson Center

The Mortenson Center for International Library Programs

The Center was founded in 1991 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne.

According to its website, “The Mortenson Center and the Mortenson Distinguished Professorship seek to strengthen international ties among libraries and librarians, regardless of geographic location or access to technology.”

Individuals at the Mortenson Center participated in the initial testing of this curriculum.