Sunday, 26 September 2010

Comment to Good Library Guide

In response to a post on the Good Library Guide about ebooks in public libraries, I got sucked in to posting a comment. Not that I'm cynical or anything but just in case it doesn't make it though moderation here it is:


My (admittedly limited) understanding of the law is that the Digital Economies Bill seeks to extend the definition of book in the Public Lending Right Act (1979) to include:

"(a) a work recorded as a sound recording and consisting mainly of spoken words (an “audio-book”), and

(b) a work, other than an audio-book, recorded in electronic form and consisting mainly of (or of any combination of) written or spoken words or still pictures (an “e-book”)"

...and amends the The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 so that:

"Copyright in a work of any description is not infringed by the following acts by a public library in relation to a book within the public lending right scheme—

(a)lending the book;

(b)in relation to an audio-book or e-book, copying or issuing a copy of the book as an act incidental to lending it."

Effectively allowing libraries to "loan" ebooks without infringing copyright. With respect to the previous comment about not being able to "lend" e-books - services such as Overdrive are able to create copies of e-books which expire after a period, so the "borrower" does not have a permanent copy of the book.

Despite the many failings of the Digital Economies Bill, the changes to legislation outlined above are consistent with the spirit of copyright law - which, since the Statute of Anne 1709, has existed not only to protect the interests of booksellers but also to protect the rights of the public to access published information. Which is why we have concepts such as fair dealing, exceptions for private research or study and legal deposit.

Throughout the history of copyright law, the interests of the public to freely access published information have always been at odds with the interests of booksellers, and booksellers have always sought to influence the law in their favour. I find it interesting that a "library campaigner" would so strongly support booksellers. As librarians we are taught to view information critically for example to determine if the source is biased or has an ulterior motive. In this case I'd suggest maybe Perkins should consider re branding as a "Bookseller Campaigner".


  1. I've commented as well, to alert Amanda (the commenter who thought that borrowers would have an e-book in perpetuity) to the existence of DRM. I wonder if either of our replies will be published?

  2. Well it looks like they made it Tom. Can't be too careful with that one though. I do find it frustrating that folks are so willing to lay into libraries without first checking their facts :-(