A colleague sent me this question in my role as a Copyright Scholar for ALA's Copyright Advisory Network, but I felt it touched on too many non-copyright issues (licensing, library management, funds = access) to be discussed exclusively there.
The question is:
I would like any responses to the issue of whether or not a donor to an institution can access electronic databases licensed to the institution. A typical electronic resource contract contains the following provision:
"Authorized Users [is defined as]: Staff, faculty, librarians and other professionals who are employed by your organization or who provide professional services at your organization's facilities, any student affiliated with your organization, and, to the extent that your organization includes a public library, individuals otherwise entitled to use your library facilities."
Fred Administrator wants to encourage donors to donate and has proposed offering donors full Library privileges, including access to licensed e-resources. Does Jane Donor, who is not an alumna, professional, student, librarian, or staff member at Blackacre Professional University, fall within the definition of Authorized User?
To really answer the question about who is an "authorized user", you need to closely examine its definition within each database license. If it is unclear, then I’d recommend you talk to the attorney for your library.
However, unless “authorized users” are defined broadly, I highly doubt those that your library's licensors would include donors. After all, based on the terms used in your question, you are at an educational institution, and therefore your library is likely receiving the licenses for these e-resources at a discounted price, compared to the price charged to non-educational institutions. A donor who uses these databases is less likely to have an educational purpose. On the other hand, some universities, such as the University of Illinois, now have access to some databases for use by alums.
Another important consideration is how patrons gain access to your library and databases. Can anyone enter your library? If so, can they use e-resources on site? Are e-resources tied to IP-addresses or individual passwords? If any of your resources are password-based or tied to having a university account such as an email account, then how would your library manage adding these non-traditional users -- would allowing access violate your institution's IT policies? These are just some of the difficult questions you will need to ask in regards to e-resources. On the other hand, if this is the barrier, it can probably be dealt with more easily (internally) than if the problem is a third party vendor.
Some libraries have negotiated database licenses to allow walk-ins to use the resource, while limiting remote access to those with university-based email addresses. As a starting point, you should look at suggestions on how to change your license agreements at LibLicense: Licensing Digital Information, a resource for librarians, hosted at Yale Library.
Anyone else have some suggestions for this librarian about how to solve this difficult question?