I posted recently (Copyright madness – story 2) about a colleague who wished to access an EIGHTY-FIVE YEAR OLD scientific paper (in the transactions of the Transylvanian Haematological Society) and had bizarre restrictions put in her way. Now she wishes to access an even older paper and it gets worse:
The absurdities apply equally to VERY OLD articles, which should be well out of copyright. Thus I am looking into the early origins of [garlic as a blood clotting agent], having traced the concept back to 1899, and a journal (and author!) long since deceased. Only the British Library still has it, but a request for an inter library loan to them is only granted if I agree to the BL’s own copyright terms, which include my not being able toa) copy what they send meb) give my copy to anyone elsec) have it translated for me (it’s in Transylvanian)d) or acquire it in digital form should I wish to pass it through OSCAR or other text mining.I will in fact go and try to collect it […time and strategy deleted…] I will let you know what happens!
PMR: This is grotesque. There is no way this document is in copyright. A colleague confirmed that the British Library has effectively decided that the simplest management technique is to copyright everything they issue as an Interlibrary loan. And they have some sort of protection from the law by doing this.
I appreciate that if I need a C19 (sic) volume it has to be treated with care. But this is a digital object. You don’t have to handle it with digital gloves. It doesn’t fall apart in sunlight. It can be copied without deterioration. I have met people from the BL and they have a digital library program. They know that electronic documents are not books. But it seems like the BL have decided that scholarship is less important than convenience and safety. It’s this sort of attitude that is silently conniving at the restriction of scholarship through copyright censorship.
The LOCKSS idea is “Lots of Copies, Keep Stuff Safe”. The BL appears to have OOCKIL “Only One Copy, Keep It Locked”. Even for digital documents.
The really sad thing is that in the current digital revolution librarians should be leading the way forward.