Copyright Made Easier 2nd edition

Librarian Career Development

ISSN: 0968-0810

Article publication date: 1 October 1999




McCracken, R. (1999), "Copyright Made Easier 2nd edition", Librarian Career Development, Vol. 7 No. 10, pp. 108-109.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

It is significant that the title promises to make copyright easier, not to make it easy, for copyright is a complex and sometimes vaguely worded area of law that requires implementation, often by relatively inexperienced users, in a vast range of practical circumstances.

Dealing with copyright can sometimes be a lonely and isolated business. Outside the large publishers and broadcasters it is almost inevitable that anyone dealing with copyright questions will be working alone. Given the subject’s complexity and occasional interpretative vaguaries, the second edition of Ray Wall’s book is a welcome addition to the working library of any copyright professional.

This is a time of great and increasingly speedy change in methods of electronic production and communication and, as a result, copyright has become a focus of concern for a number of industries and professions that, on the face of it, may have little else in common. The convergence of the broadcast and print media with the computing and telecommunications industries is more prominent, the management and distribution of electronic information in libraries and education brings professionals in these sectors into direct contact with copyright issues in ways increasingly similar to the media industries. Professions that traditionally have had little in common are now working to develop similar approaches to the management of copyright and rights deriving from copyright.

The publication of the second edition of Ray Wall’s excellent Copyright Made Easier is, therefore, particularly opportune. The new edition updates the work to 1998, taking account of legislative change resulting from European harmonisation and efforts to draft copyright legislation to meet the challenges of the digital media.

Although the range covered by this book is enormous, its use of a logical layout and presentation coupled with an easy, clear and concise writing style makes it extremely easy to access both information and good practical advice. That much will be familiar to readers of the original, but this new edition goes one step further by updating not only the range of legislation covered but also expanding the useful quick reference section. For example, the increased number of problem area case studies provides particularly useful guidance for readers trying to make sense of copyright in a practical setting.

The use of recognisably everyday situations in his case studies is typical of Ray Wall’s approach throughout. The language is clear and the commentary sensible. His views are expressed clearly without ever becoming glibly contentious or inducing uncertainty. This is an author with whom you know where you are, capable of balancing a natural sympathy for the user against a respect for the legitimate rights of copyright owners in deriving commercial benefit from their work.

This is important, for there can be a sense of partition between owners and users, licensors and licensees, that gets in the way of establishing effective working practices.

The book’s structure follows the likely train of thought of the practitioner. First, what is protected by copyright and what rights does the owner own or control? Then what are the rights (or defences) of users? Finally, how are licences obtained and the process administered. This allows the more inexperienced reader to begin to develop a sense of the approach that a more experienced user might adopt in approaching the clearance of copyright materials for use in various media.

Legislative change has been accurately and exhaustively tracked. It is no longer enough to know the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, so great are the subsequent legislative accretions of national and European law that now wrap around it. The recently introduced database right, of great importance to librarians, is dealt with under a section exploring rights of ownership. Copyright issues in the electronic media are also explored, as are other comparatively recent introductions, such as performers’ rights and rental and lending.

The world is changing and the management of copyright‐based industries is changing with it, primarily under the impact of technological change. While the principles may remain broadly the same, the impact of technology changes practice. Access to quality content in electronic formats is increasingly subject to rights licensing. This leaves individual practitioners with the difficulty of how to maintain professional standards in delivering the best service to users within a constantly changing legislative and commercial environment. This book is an essential tool for anyone engaged with that process.

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