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

4.3 Ownership and legal issues

Because electronic media make it much easier to purchase information piece by piece when it is needed, in contrast to the conventional pattern of speculative acquisition of books and journals, new ways of relating cost to the use of information must be established. The whole area of information ownership is coming under close scrutiny. Librarians are inevitably concerned in these issues, and will need clear guidance regarding the evolving legal and regulatory environment as well as a mechanism for ensuring that their views and concerns are taken into account.

The downloading or copying of electronically stored material is a particularly difficult and sensitive area for publishers, authors, other rights holders and users, although it is in the interest of all these parties to seek arrangements that are not excessively restrictive, in order to promote full and fair access to the ideas and information held in the new formats. End-users and librarians are willing to pay for the use of electronic publications, but do not wish access to be restricted by the imposition of unreasonable 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 obtaining permission for restricted acts. An agreement between librarians and rights owners, defining the amount of material that can be copied and the uses that may be made of copied material, would be most valuable.

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