This guest blog is by Paul Pedley, author of Practical Copyright for Information Professionals.
The year 2014 was significant for librarians interested in copyright law, because it marked the culmination of many years of lobbying for the law to be changed to take into account the needs not only of rightsholders, but those of copyright users too.
The library exceptions were completely rewritten (apart from one exception relating to lending of copies by libraries or archives); a number of new exceptions were introduced such as one for parody, pastiche and caricature, and another for the purposes of quotation; and some of the existing exceptions were amended to ensure that they couldn’t be overridden by contracts.
The extent to which libraries, museums and archives are able to benefit from these changes will in many ways be dependent upon their attitude towards risk. Here are some examples of how libraries and museums have made use of the new or amended exceptions:
- A national library has provided sound recordings to individuals who aren’t able-bodied and who are unable to visit in person.
- A number of libraries in the higher education sector are now content-mining sound recordings.
- A national museum has used the dedicated terminals exception to provide access to digitized papers which are too fragile to be displayed.
- Museums are using the preservation exception to make digital copies of their collection items.
- The library of a musical conservatoire has used the illustration for instruction exception to reproduce excerpts of sheet music and audio tracks and upload these to the VLE.
- A number of libraries have been receiving copyright declaration forms electronically, which has been of particular benefit to distance learners.
While these changes were welcomed by libraries, there is still plenty that librarians would like to see changed. The “London Manifesto” was drafted by LACA, the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance. The manifesto calls for fair copyright reform for libraries and archives in Europe. One of the wishlist items in the manifesto is an “open norm”. This would allow for copyright users to benefit from technological innovations straight away because it would be a more flexible exception than the ones we have at the moment, whilst respecting the rights that copyright holders have. It would be possible to do so, because the exception would be subject to the Berne “three-step test”. Meanwhile EDRi believes that a modernised copyright regime is needed, one which takes into consideration the needs of all parts of society, including creators. They have a list of “copyfails” which include digital rights management systems restricting lending and borrowing of books and music in digital format; and not allowing research using text and data mining where this is for a commercial purpose.
The problem, of course, is that every year government departments have to compete with one another to get parliamentary time to implement legislation; even when there is a will to do so. The sheer complexity of Brexit will inevitably mean that there will be a lot of other things that will take priority over and above changes to copyright law. All of which would suggest that we should look on the 2014 copyright changes as a significant achievement, and after all the effort that went into bringing about those changes libraries should ensure that they make full use of the benefits that those changes brought about.
Paul Pedley is currently at City, University of London studying for a PhD on Protecting the privacy of library users. He is the author of several Facet Publishing books including Practical Copyright for Information Professionals (2015). He tweets as @priv_lib, and blogs at www.libraryprivacyblog.wordpress.com.
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