Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Groklaw: the british library gets it on drm

Regular readers will remember Pamela Jones anger at the British Libary's adoption of restrictive policies and Microsoft drm in their deployment of information systems to handle electronic materials. She's now changed her mind about their perspective on drm because of their recently issued IP manifesto (pdf). The Library's press release gives a neat summary. Pamela Jones says:

"I wish to say thank you to the British Library for issuing this document.

The IP Manifesto's key recommendations include, quoting from the press release:
* Existing limitations and exceptions to copyright law should be extended to encompass unambiguously the digital environment;

* Licenses providing access to digital material should not undermine longstanding limitations and exceptions such as ‘fair dealing';

* The right to copy material for preservation purposes – a core duty of all national libraries – should be extended to all copyrightable works;

* The copyright term for sound recordings should not be extended without empirical evidence of the benefits and due consideration of the needs of society as a whole;

* The US model for dealing with ‘orphan works' should be considered for the UK;

* The length of copyright term for unpublished works should be brought into line with other terms (ie: life plus 70 years).

In other words, copyright law should not change in the digital environment, and if it doesn't change, then fair dealing and fair use are just as applicable there. Here's the press release. This sentence says it all: "Licenses providing access to digital material should not undermine longstanding limitations and exceptions such as ‘fair dealing.'" And here's another angle to the story.

I am so thrilled, I can't even express myself."

I said at the time of her original essay that she was probably being a little harsh on the good folks at the British Library, since their director, Clive Field, had already publicly expressed his concerns about drm potentially causing digital lockdown of libaries; and though this is an excellent initiative from them it won't make the issues surrounding the adoption of the Microsoft drm at the Library go away. The reality of the day to day deployment and managing of complex information systems tends to be far removed from well intended high level policies and it is important that things are right at the operational level as well as the policy level. The very nature of the institution, however, means that it is crammed full of dedicated people who will, hopefully, tip the balance in terms of killing off their operational drm strictures in the longer term.

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