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The impact of electronic publishing on library services and resources in the UK

3.9.4 Copyright

There is no fundamental difference in kind in copyright in publications on paper and electronic publications, and the concerns of the rights owners are the same in both cases. The difference between the two modes of publication is in effect one of intensity. Electronic publishing does not allow anything that was not already possible, however arduously, in a print-on-paper environment. What it does is allow everything, especially infringements of copyright, to be done much more easily, much more quickly and much less detectably than before. As a result, the concerns of the rights owners are more acutely felt.

What the rights owner (who is usually either the publisher or the author) wants is

(a) to prevent unauthorised exploitation or use of the product, which includes unauthorised copying or transfer from one medium to another, and resale in whole or in part;

(b) to ensure the integrity of the product, in the sense of its not being altered or misrepresented.

Not unnaturally, the owner wishes to enjoy the rewards for the labour that went into the creation of the product, to protect existing revenue streams and to benefit from the possibility of new ones. This means being able to control all copying of the product, and to monitor any uses which may possibly infringe these rights. The owner also wishes to be able to receive revenues, and to determine pricing structures. In the case of new categories of work, such as computer programs, which are not easily accommodated within the existing legal framework, the owner wishes to have rights protected by new legislation if necessary.

The end-user wants to be able to consult published works whenever the need arises, which may entail being able to store them locally. The librarian, serving the end-user, needs to be able to gain access to published works, to store them, and make them available to users as legitimate "fair dealing", which may involve re-transmissions in different formats and on more than one occasion. Both end-users and librarians are willing to pay for the use of electronic publications, but do not wish access to be restricted by imposition of excessive charges (or, in principle, by any other obstacle, legal or otherwise). The means of monitoring use and of levying and collecting charges should not be administratively burdensome, nor should the processes of identifying rights owners and of obtaining permission for restricted acts. This last requirement is particularly important in the case of multimedia products, when a librarian or other user may reasonably expect to deal directly with the supplier of the product, rather than with a possibly large number of original rights owners.

Control of copying presents some problems, because strictly speaking (as noted above) it is not possible to use an electronic publication without copying it, however temporarily, either to screen, to paper or to computer memory. What is and is not permitted should wherever possible be made explicit. With electronic publications supplied on a physical medium or from an online service (which in effect means electronic publications supplied by a commercial or quasi-commercial agency), what acts are permitted will probably be covered by the user contract or the terms and conditions of sale.

The Follett Report accepts that authors' and publishers' interests in copyright protection are legitimate and that copyright is a defensible means of protecting their investment and intellectual property rights. It views the way forward through an understanding that licensing agreements should be fostered and effectively policed, and that technical controls to monitor electrocopying and mass dissemination should be developed.

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