Benjamin White, Head of Intellectual Property at the British Library, has produced an extremely detailed guide to the implications of the changes of UK copyright law for libraries and for the general public in Britain. And this guide has been made available through the website of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), who have of course an immediate professional interest in the topic.
“The proposed drafts go a significant way towards making UK copyright law ‘format neutral’, meaning that the law will now recognise for example that those doing research and personal study are just as likely to copy an excerpt from a sound recording or a film as they are from a book,” White observes. ” The same goes for libraries who want to preserve their collections of sound recordings and films just as much as their paper collections.”
White overall welcomes the changes. “The aim of these modernisations to copyright law – many of which do no more than put us on an even footing with the rest of Europe – is to try and foster a legal and fully functional digital environment that supports an innovative UK digital economy, and treats citizens as digital citizens. It certainly seems to me this is a significant step in the right direction,” he remarks. “My view is that these measures have been carefully and sensitively implemented, and over time will show that changes to copyright law are not a ‘zero sum game’, with winners by definition resulting in losers. Access to knowledge results in innovation and creativity, and many of us are creators as well as consumers – the two are symbiotically intertwined.”
In particular, he welcomes “a proposal for what is called ‘text and data mining’, ‘content mining’ or sometimes ‘data analytics.’ The government has recognised that in an era of big data, much value can and is being derived from computers “reading” and “analysing” data that exists in text, images and other types of copyright works. Data-driven innovation in part depends on computers being able to interrogate the zetabytes of data now at our disposal. This proposal (although limited to non-commercial use because of the EU Copyright Directive) will go some way to close the digital innovation gap with countries like Japan, Singapore, the US and South Korea, who have been able to mine any in-copyright material to which they have lawful access.”
And, he adds, “the changes will also allow individuals to lawfully make private copies of CDs etc that they have bought. The UK has long been an anomaly on this front, with most countries having what is known as a ‘private copying exception’ in their copyright laws. Good news I am sure for many.”