British Library and Copyright – geeks vs. business

I’ve had a wornderful day talking with Ben White from the BL. Ben is in charge of Intellectual Property matters at the BL and very interested in how Copyright affects science and its practice and dissemination. We spent a lot of time showing practical examples of re-use such as text- and data-mining and discssuing whether copyright or contracts or either get in the way of re-using the information for furthering science.
Here’s the BL’s position…

British Library Chief Executive, Dame Lynne Brindley DBE, speaking at an Intellectual Property Seminar, chaired by Ed Vaizey Shadow Minister for Culture, stated: ‘We are in danger of an escalating arms race between geeks/hackers and tech savvy young people and businesses focussed on lock-down – the music industry has shown the difficulties of DRM based strategies. Let’s put equal imagination in to workable new business models! And we should be aware of trends towards more open innovation models – in software standards, in publishing, in education courseware and in source code. The reward/innovation balance is not a straightforward one.’

Very true – and the balance in science is particularly important as:

  • Authors create the information with (usually) public funding
  • Authors do not expect or want any financial reward
  • Authors and funders want the results to be re-used by others
  • The work is usually understaken with the benefit of the human race in mind

PMR: Copyright and contracts can often stand in the way of re-use for science. Sometimes this is unintentional, but users dare not infringe copyright and libraries often sign additional contracts which have very powerful constraints about the amount and purpose of re-use.
Ben has a special request: Can anyone think of important scientific monographs which are out of print but in copyright and which it would be valuable to have access to? Things that the general public might have heard of… I can’t immediately do this in chemistry. Please add as comments or mail me…

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