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

3.9.5 Standard agreements on use of electronic publications

Part of the Working Party's remit was "To consider the rights and obligations of suppliers and users of electronic publications ... with a view to drawing up a model agreement". As mentioned earlier, a subgroup of the Working Party was set up to consider contractual and licensing issues, with particular reference to CD-ROM and related products and services. This subgroup decided that further work was needed to arrive at a set of elements to be considered for inclusion in any licence agreement between supplier and user, and proposed the development of a "toolkit" that could be used to assemble a model agreement. A BLRDD contract was placed with Dr Nick Smith of Aston University Library & Information Services to carry out this work (ref26).

In compiling his report, Dr Smith drew upon a range of sources, including interviews with colleagues from national, public, academic and special libraries, and examination of existing forms of agreement/contract for a range of CD-ROM products and online services.

The research revealed wide variations in the content and length of current licence agreements, ranging from long (as in the case of ADONIS on CD-ROM) to short (as for The Guardian). It was evident, moreover, that agreements differ markedly depending on the type of information carried, whether it be factual, numeric, bibliographic, full-text, scanned images of journals or books, or multimedia. Another key factor affecting the form of contract is the method of information distribution involved, whether it be remote (centralised and online) or local (distributed and offline). It was concluded that a "toolkit" as originally envisaged was impractical, and the aims of the project were modified to produce the following, which are given in Appendix 5:

(a) Recommendations to suppliers for elements to be included in contracts, with supporting evidence;

(b) A checklist of good practice for users, to enable them to evaluate contracts.

The recommendations take into account the issues of most concern to library and information workers, which were identified as:

Networking freedom and fees

Leasing versus purchase

(Re-)use of information


Obligations of suppliers

Conditions on superseded disks

Term and termination.

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