Law, Libraries and Technology

Eric Jukes (Asset and Information Systems Manager, Learning Resources, College of North East London (CONEL), UK)

Program: electronic library and information systems

ISSN: 0033-0337

Article publication date: 25 April 2008




Jukes, E. (2008), "Law, Libraries and Technology", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 42 No. 2, pp. 194-197.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

No one can deny that libraries have gone through significant change in recent years, caused mainly by the introduction of digital technologies, as well as the onward march of the Internet. Because of this advancement in information and communications technology, the running of libraries has become ever more complex and, as a result, it is essential that librarians are in a position to adapt and deal with these new circumstances of employment and service.

One particular area of concern is that of copyright. Of course, copyright has always been a problem area for librarians, but the digital age, with its ease of scanning books, file sharing, copying and downloading music and movies, has really turned copyright issues into a minefield. Legislation and case law that originated in a non‐digital time seem no longer of relevance in the digital age, and contravention – even innocent contravention – brings with it the risk of legal action. Mark van Hoorebeek, in his book, Law, Libraries and Technology, says that: “no one wants to encounter litigation caused by ignorance”. The author appreciates that copyright has a reputation as being “a complex and turgid area” and has organised his book into clearly defined chapters and targeted it specifically at librarians and the library profession.

Chapter 1 – an introduction to intellectual property – spells out the fundamentals; the definition of property; sources of law – statute law and case law; tangible and intellectual property as well as an examination of what is copyright. The chapter ends with a set of notes. The notes are comprehensive, quoting legal citations where necessary. Indeed, the notes at the end of each chapter can be so comprehensive that there are times that one has the impression that the notes are longer than the chapter!

Copyright on the world stage is covered in chapter 2. It is important to say that the book is written from a UK perspective – legislation quoted is UK legislation. However, a book on this subject cannot be written totally in isolation. Significant legislative effort has been made with the aim of harmonising intellectual property law throughout the world, and this particularly relates to the European Union (EU) signatory countries (including the ten new accession states). The chapter also points out the agreements to which most of the world has ascribed, such as the agreements instigated and enforced by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) as well as the Berne Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention.

In chapter 3, which looks at the European dimension, an important point is made that information professionals need to possess an appreciation of the international dimension to laws because of the scope of those laws' litigious powers. The chapter also looks briefly at how the UK's law‐making power is governed (before examining the European dimension of copyright through the nature of the UK's membership of the EU, as well as a descriptive account of the levels of enforcement of EU law and its applicability to private and public institutions. The chapter concludes by assessing the impact of regulations through examples of EU governance and the potential burdens this may place on information professionals.

The foundations of UK copyright are examined in chapter 4, including the national copyright law governing UK libraries. The chapter looks at the thematic underpinnings of copyright, beginning with the idea/expression dichotomy – a US term – although the same concept is expressed in various ways and aims to achieve the same goals, which is that ideas expressed go into the public domain and can be used freely by all, but that the author's particular expression remains the author's property over which the author can exert control, and potentially benefit from its use. It is a general theme, which runs through copyright law. The rest of the chapter looks at originality in copyright, asks why we have copyright and considers natural rights theories, reward and incentive based theories. The chapter concludes by looking at what can be protected by copyright. It is noted that copyright has developed in a gradual way due to the pressures of technological changes.

Chapter 5 – on moral and economic rights – looks at two very distinct categories of rights that arise once a work has obtained the necessary characteristics to obtain copyright protection. These rights are the moral and economic rights statutorily expressed in the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. This chapter also includes limitation periods (always a source of concern for librarians and others concerned with copyright), reproduction rights, rental and lending rights, public performance and broadcast, as well as the enforcement of copyright. A useful little section in this chapter is on copyright myths, which includes the old chestnut that (in the UK) a copyright symbol © or notice is required before creation is afforded copyright. In most countries implementing the Berne Convention, almost everything will have copyright protection whether or not it has a copyright symbol or notice.

Infringement of copyright, covering primary and secondary infringers, is covered in chapter 6. The chapter also looks at music downloading and “time‐shifting”, where a private or domestic user records a broadcast programme solely for the purpose of enabling it to be viewed or listened to at a more convenient time. It is noted that the complexity of the legislation in the infringement area is partly a product of the rapidly developing technology.

Chapter 7 is a lengthy chapter examining exceptions to copyright infringement. These exceptions are copyright expiry; insubstantial copying (an area of some uncertainty); originality; fair dealing – a lengthy subsection examining sections of the Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988, including section 30: “Criticism and review” (the part which protects myself in writing this review!); the rental and lending rights; library exceptions – including prescribed libraries; copying by librarians; supply of copies to other libraries; replacement copies of works; certain unpublished works, and “other materials such as musical recordings and computer software”. The exceptions conclude with incidental inclusion; educational usage; visually‐impaired persons; public interest defence; and transient copies. This is an extremely important chapter for librarians.

I found the concluding chapter, chapter 8 – indications of further developments – almost an anti‐climax, indeed, for the first time I was even a little confused. The beginning of the chapter jumps into computer workstations and health and safety, with a consideration of what is a VDU. Whilst VDUs and associated legislation may technically fit in the “technology” remit of the book, I for one, found its inclusion incongruous, given the fact that 99.9 per cent of the book relates to copyright. The (UK) VDU legislation is briefly considered before the author goes into a page and a half of the familiar “Get comfortable”: adjust the brightness and contrast controls; try different arrangements of keyboard, screen and mouse; do not sit in the same position for long periods; and, finally, at number 13, take breaks: frequent short breaks are better than long infrequent ones. Then the reader is plunged back into the world of copyright and infringers, including eBooks and piracy, Napster, KaZaA, more on eBooks, piracy control methods, encryption, and the role of university law libraries. The chapter concludes by noting that the future for legal eTextbooks or e‐books in general is uncertain, but that e‐book publishers are better equipped than the music industry to resist the threat of piracy.

The book concludes with a substantial section of references as well as an index. Like all good law books, a table of statutes is included together with the pages on which the statutes are referenced.

Law, Libraries and Technology is quite well laid out and, as a paperback of some 160 pages, it is quite convenient to carry around in a briefcase for reference or study. It is not an entirely easy read, but it is certainly an interesting read, and an invaluable work which should be available to staff and managers in all UK libraries. Indeed it is a book that should be read by all who require more than just a cursory knowledge of copyright.

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