Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Interesting report on Digital Legal Deposit

Last month the International Publishers Association (IPA) put out an interesting report about the state of digital legal deposit for copyright purposes, with extended status reports from the national libraries of Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, France and Italy, and short reports from many other countries. The IPA's conclusions echo some themes I have mentioned before:
  • "It is clear that the more voluntary a digital legal deposit scheme is at the outset, the better."
  • "The best schemes are those where an emphasis has been put on publishers and librarians collaborating to address key concerns"
My reason for saying these things is based on experience. It shows that, no matter what the law says, if the publishers don't want you to collect their stuff, you will have a very hard time collecting it. On-line publishers need to have robust defenses against theft, which even national libraries would have difficulty overcoming without the publishers' cooperation.

The publishers' reason for saying these things is different. What are the publishers' "key concerns" on which voluntary collaboration is needed?
  • "copyright protection, digital security and monitored access"
  • "clear, mutually agreed and flexible rules on access which protect publishers' normal exploitation; who is authorized to use deposited material, where they can access it and what they can lawfully do with it."
In other words, they are happy to deposit their content only under conditions that make it almost useless, such as that it only be accessible to one reader at a time physically at the library, just like a paper book.

Given that the finances of many national libraries are in dire straits, the publishers have a helpful suggestion:
"Countries might usefully consider other models, such as larger publishers self-archiving material, agreeing to make it available on request to libraries."
Or, in other words, lets just forget the whole idea of legal deposit.

Note: everything in quotes is from the report, emphasis in the original.

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