Staying Legal – A Guide to Issues and Practice Affecting the Library, Information and Publishing Sectors (2nd ed.)

Tamara S. Eisenschitz (Lecturer, Department of Information Science, City University, London, UK)

Program: electronic library and information systems

ISSN: 0033-0337

Article publication date: 1 December 2004




Eisenschitz, T.S. (2004), "Staying Legal – A Guide to Issues and Practice Affecting the Library, Information and Publishing Sectors (2nd ed.)", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 38 No. 4, pp. 278-279.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This book is the second edition of a practical and useful compilation first published in 1999. The editors are IT and information professionals and the chapters cover the variety of laws, regulations and codes of practice to which this profession is now subject. Their aim is to make readers aware that these laws, regulations and codes exist; but also that there is a lot of change and that therefore one can never be sure of knowing the answers without checking the sources. They hope that these texts will encourage people to dig deeper into areas that interest them, and that they will know where to turn and what to ask in the areas they are less familiar with.

The book has 11 main chapters as well as an introduction and a conclusion. The first two chapters are on the law and its sources and the courts and on access and availability. These form a good introduction given that people do not generally learn about our legal system as part of their broad education.

Areas of law dealing with property rights and with economic and trading values are the most developed, so the next three chapters are on intellectual property; copyright, trade marks and patents; followed by two on contracts and on licensing and codes of practice. These cover the direct and indirect exploitation of property and trading rights arising from individual creativity.

Having sampled the chapters on patents and on copyright, it was clear that the main emphasis is on the legislation and the procedures stemming from it. Some case law is given as illustration; but, for instance, the ultimate uses of the information gained from patent specifications and the practicalities for users of copyright observance were touched upon only briefly.

Then, on the personal rights side of the issues we have a chapter on data protection looking at the issues which information professionals need to know about, and illustrated with cases and incidents.

An issue of current major concern is that of criminal activities nationally, internationally and supra‐nationally. This is developing rapidly in many directions fuelled by fears and by politics.

The internet is just one medium, but has its own characteristics which are shaping information law, so a summary chapter looks at internet law as an entity looking at managing risks and at strategies of control for a wide range of regulatory areas. Each topic suffers from necessarily brief treatment, but it does allow a variety of topics and their interactions to be sketched out.

The introduction and conclusions give a general overview at the start, and end by emphasising the rate of change and the importance of awareness in these areas.

There is a useful list of books for further reading, and a lengthy index of topics. The documentation of statute law, regulations, etc. has a separate index. However, cases are listed simply under “C” in the main index which is a bit strange.

Overall, the strength of this work is in having so much brought together in one place to show up the connections. So often in information law, the details of one area overwhelm while ignorance prevails elsewhere.

The biggest omission to my eyes is that of freedom of information (FoI). As the FoI Act 2000 will become fully operational in the UK in January 2005 something about its scope and how it will operate would have been welcome. There is a brief mention of publication schemes, but the editors (in the final chapter 11) state that because many organisational changes will be made in 2004, with possibly unpredictable knock on effects, they do not want to discuss it further. The mention is useful, but I think that the benefits of more detail would have outweighed the risks of some errors.

The editors are aiming their book at information professionals in the workplace and in a position to make strategic decisions on what services to buy and how they should be run. They are likely to be senior, but in need of an overview of topics. It is also aimed at even more senior staff who should know roughly what to do, but should keep this book on their reference shelves to look up the law as they need it.

However, given the amount of material and the realities of the workplace, I think that it is more likely to be skimmed by both groups and then left for reference.

I think that the likely readership will be students on Master's degrees in information science and similar subjects. There is a reasonable amount of detail for each topic and a good sense of how topics are related, and where one can look them up for more.

Particularly useful is the very last chapter in the book, named “from awareness to action” and written by the editors. It guides the user on how to apply what has been learnt, and for a student it would guide from the world of study to the world of work.

The difficulty with law for the layperson is for them to be sufficiently aware that there could be a legal problem sufficiently well in advance so they can take evasive action. For this, the user needs to understand the issues in the abstract ahead of their applications. This book has sufficient detail to fill that role without overwhelming the reader and scaring them off.

I recommend it with enthusiasm to students and for those staff responsible for workplace policy and strategy as referred to above. It really does do its job well. However, the price is somewhat of a deterrent, do not let yourselves be put off.

Related articles