The folks at the British Library genuinely care about access to knowledge and the problems associated with drm and overly strong intellectual property laws. So when the chair of the All Parliamentary Internet Group called on the British Library to lead the debate on DRM in order to avoid excessive influence from the IP industries lobby, those with a digital rights persuasion didn't raise any objections. The British Library chief executive Lynne Brindley was surprised at the call but "willing to play a part."
Firstly the positive - I think the British Library is fantastic. If it wasn't for the good folks at the British Library, Oxford's Bodleian Library and the Open University Library, I would never have had access to the literally hundreds of books and articles I've needed as part of the research for my book over the past year or so.
Secondly the negative - Pamela Jones points out in gory detail how the British Library have adopted restrictive policies and Microsoft drm in their deployment of information systems to handle electronic materials. The story of how such a venerable institution, commited to access to knowledge can come to implement some of the draconian policies Pamela outlines merits further investigation but for the moment for those of you serious about what have come to be called digital rights, The British Library - "The world's knowledge" DRM'd and for a price
is essential reading.
" My grandmother was a research librarian...
We'd have tea together every day when I was little, just the two of us, only my tea was what she called cambric tea, namely hot water with milk and sugar, in pretty little cups, and she would tell me stories about her life...She taught me many valuable things, like how to deal with adversity, and she taught me values by telling those stories.
That is how I know quite a lot about libraries. She taught me how to use the card system. They'd have rows and rows of wooden file cabinets with drawer after drawer of index cards, so you could find where things were located in the library. That is how, when I first read about Google's books project, I knew instantly that what they are wanting to do is to set up a kind of digital version of those index cards, not to "steal" the books, but so we all would know where to find them...
Libraries are looking for ways to loan digital works while respecting copyright law. There has always been a certain tension between libraries and publishers, because the latter want everyone to pay for a book or article, and if you don't have the money, too bad for you. Libraries, on the other hand, traditionally want to make knowledge available to all. It's the heart of what they are, or what they traditionally have been. But since my grandmother's day, we have new, top-heavy copyright laws, with the entertainment moguls pushing for what suits them sitting on top, and once RIAA lawyers get in the mix, you know how complicated everything gets, and so libraries have to be careful to set policies that comply with the law. It's hard. Here's the dignified way the NY Public Library does so, posting a notice about copyright law and what it means to you...
You agree that it is your responsibility to install anti-virus software and related protections against viruses, Trojan horses, worms, time bombs, cancelbots or other computer programming routines or engines that are intended to damage, destroy, disrupt or otherwise impair a computer's functionality or operation which may be transferred to your computer via the OverDrive server.
Hmm. That last paragraph takes us into a new zone. If I want to listen to the Tom Sawyer audiobook, I must install antivirus software? I discern they assume we are all using Windows. (Actually, the NY Public Library accommodates Apple software too, although they seem never to have heard about GNU/Linux users.) But I'm not using Windows. Still, that requirement is in the license. To be law-abiding, I'd have to install software I don't need or want. Plus, there is something that doesn't feel quite right about being told what one must do with one's own property, and my computer is mine. But I suppose my remedy is not to use the service...
Draconian DRM is undeniably altering what a library is and how knowledge can be found and used. It alters not only what libraries are like; it alters the way copyright law works, without anyone passing a law...
Would you like to see what a more fully DRM-loving library looks like? Take a look at the British Library. The British Library's motto is "The world's knowledge." For example, here's how they describe themselves:
The British Library is the national library of the
The processes needed to deal with electronic materials are intrinsically the same as those needed for traditional print materials, but the solutions need to be different.
The British Library's solution is Digital Object Management or DOM. And they explain their software choice:
Software tools We have also assessed the choice of tools in building this storage sub-system. We have chosen to work in a Microsoft .NET framework, using BizTalk 2004 and C#. We have established that there are clear productivity and cost benefits from this approach. We have looked at DSpace, Fedora, and ePrints software for the digital repository system: none of these offer exactly what we need, although some design features are of interest.
So it's a Microsoft shop, with all that that implies for your privacy and usability and security. So let's say you wanted a digital copy of a document housed at the British Library. How does it work? Obviously, they won't just send it to you in the clear. They don't trust you or the law's ability to dissuade you from behaving criminally. So what is their solution? Here you will find the British Library's Document Supply Services services terms and conditions, which is too long to quote in full but which is horrific enough that I hope you do read it. What stands out is that they charge money to loan. Libraries don't traditionally cost anything, if you wish to borrow a book. That little shift changes the landscape utterly...
You are allowed to print out one copy, and that is all, and must promise to delete the electronic copy...
Document manipulation is verboten, whatever that means. When you order that digital document, you will be using what they call secure electronic delivery, which is a method of sending encrypted PDFs which you must print out within 14 days...
You also must pay what they call a copyright fee...
A copyright fee? What is that for? They have a service for ordering documents, called Articles Direct. Because they are supplying digital copies of paper documents, they have special rules...
You can't store or copy most documents even for your own internal, private purposes. DRM makes it possible for the document copy to time-expire on their terms. Heaven help you if you try to print out your one permitted copy and you have a paper jam. Why do we need to pay a copyright fee? What is it for? The library explains:
Copyright is important because it protects the interests of those who create and those who invest in creativity. If there was no copyright, it would be impossible for creative people to make a living from their creativity.
No one would be willing to come up with the money to make a film, to write or publish a book or journal, or to bring out a record - because there would be no way of earning a return on that investment.
Now it might be going too far to say no one would publish a book or a journal without such copyright protection, as they claim.
The British Library continues:
Now that it is so easy to copy material, it is more vital than ever that we respect copyright so that people continue to produce the creative works that society needs. This is why copyright law has a method for providing financial reward to creators for uses of their intellectual property....
However, it is often much easier to obtain a copy via a supplier such as the British Library. This, too, deprives the author and publisher of income and therefore the law now says that in many circumstances a copyright fee must be charged.
So that is the purpose of the copyright fee, to provide income to authors and those who "invest in creativity". But it is also the death of the concept of a free library, where even those with little or no money can go to learn and access the world's knowledge. Is it acceptable to you that they must go in person, while the rest of us can use the digital capabilities technology makes available, because we can afford to pay and pay and pay? A real line has been crossed, here, with the British Library buying in to the traditional publishers' hatred of libraries. Librarians are supposed to stand up against such encroachments. My grandmother would have, I know. When she was young, she didn't have a dime to spare, and she became a highly educated woman in part because of libraries. She knew how vital they were to those whose dimes were all accounted for just to pay necessary bills but who were hungry to learn. Here's another part that really bothers me:
If you pay the copyright fee, and abide by any terms and conditions associated with the provision of the article (for example, you cannot re-distribute or re-sell it because this would also deprive the author or publisher of income), you will not be in breach of copyright.
What is it about DRM that makes people add on not-yet-legistated items to copyright law...
If the copyright fee is for the author, how come he gets it if it's a rush order and not if it's by mail? It's still one copy. Now, if you live in the
If a copyright fee does not need to be paid on the copy you are ordering, we call it a Library Privilege copy. The person who wants the Library Privilege copy, i.e. the end user, must sign a Copyright Declaration Form in order to declare that they are not knowingly breaking copyright law. You can download Copyright Declaration Forms from www.bl.uk/copyright (PDF format). If the Library Privilege copy is delivered electronically or by fax, you must ensure that a similar declaration is signed. You do not return these forms to us, but instead should keep them for a minimum of seven years in case the rights owner, or their agent, requests an audit of the Library Privilege service.
Seven years? Copyright authors can request an audit of the British Library to find out if you failed to keep your permission slip for seven years? You have to keep your permissions slip longer than the IRS requires US citizens to keep proof of their finances? Are they insane? I note the Library doesn't want to be bothered with that stupid paperwork. Nope. It's for all you Would-Be-Pirates in the
There are different restrictive terms if you receive it by FAX or mail. How do they plan on enforcing this? By fly bots buzzing through our homes to spy on us? Actually they have a plan. If you purchase certain materials and you don't fully pay, this is what you agree they can do about it:
We may enter Your premises without notice and recover the Products which have not been paid for in full. This sub-clause constitutes Your authority for Us to enter the premises of any other person holding the Products on Your behalf and on whose property the Products may be and remove the Products.
Now, wait a second, cowboy. You want to enter my premises without notice and search for and take back your stuff? Without going to court at least first, to establish your version of events is true? So no more "my home is my castle," or the old quaint
Finally, the library says the website's content is also copyrighted, so naturally there are restrictions on what you can do with it:
The content of this website can be accessed, printed and downloaded in an unaltered form (unaltered including being stretched, compressed, coloured or altered in any way so as to distort content from its original proportions or format) with copyright acknowledged, on a temporary basis for personal study which is not for a direct or indirect commercial use and any non-commercial use. Any content printed or downloaded may not be sold, licensed, transferred, copied or reproduced in whole or in part in any manner or in or on any media to any person without the prior written consent of the British Library, including but not limited to:
* transmission by any method
* storage in any medium, system or program
* display in any form
* hire, lease, rental or loan
They seem to be offering to sue me for what I've done in this article. Except I'm still an American. I can use copyrighted content under fair use, which this is. But for how long? If the entire world goes DRM, you can kiss fair use goodbye. How would you like to live in the British Library's world forever...
I've been researching libraries and DRM for weeks. Why did I finally write about it? Because, as you can see from the story in News Picks, Expert Group to advise EU Commission on how to build the European Digital Library the British Library is one of the "experts" advising the EU Commission...
As I told you in March, Microsoft has already made a pitch to the EU Digital Libary for their future version of XML, and with it they suggest monetizing the world's knowledge...
DRM is part of the plan, and I encourage you to read the entire Microsoft document. It would make my grandmother roll over in her grave. Some of the librarians at the British Library are deeply troubled too about what DRM is doing to libraries. How will we access the materials if the DRM company goes out of business someday?
If they duplicate what they have done at the British Library, I think it's fair to say that it is the death of public libraries as we have known them, and the world's knowledge will be available only DRM'd and for a price."I have to say I'm concerned at the story Pamela tells. My take is that she is a little harsh on the people involved since I expect it is the story of overworked, dedicated, people making the best of systems imposed from on high and some of the more draconian provisions she points out coming with the package. It will also be a story of complexity, misunderstanding and blind acceptance of pre-prepared template licences and the magic promise of technologies, as well as organisational micromanagement through inflexible committees which fails totally to take in to account potential systemic failures. However complex the situation, though, we have to expect better of the British Library in relation to the policies they adopt on intellectual property and drm'd information systems in the digital age. It is the curse of those with high standards that those are the standards they get judged by.