Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Copyright Corner

Charles Oppenheim answers your copyright queries.

The Web and legal deposit

Paul Auchterlonie, University of Exeter Library (J.P.C.Auchterlonie@exeter.ac.uk) asked:

From what I have read of your column in Ariadne, any downloading and storage by an ordinary library of material from a Web site is a straightforward infringement of copyright, unless the agreement of the copyright owner is obtained in advance. However, if this permission is granted, are there any other laws, preventing the library from making material produded on a Web site or in e-journal form available to its readers in hard-copy?

Charles replies:
As long as the licence gives permission, that licence over-rides the law, so there is no other legal impediment.

On a related issue, what is the position of the British copyright deposit libraries on downloading from Web sites or e-journals. I understand that the national libraries of some Scandinavian countries routinely archive material produced on Web sites in their countries on the grounds that it falls within legal deposit.

There are moves afoot to extend copyright deposit in the UK to non-print materials, and if the law were so amended, then the British Library could store electronic materials and make them available to patrons, though no doubt the law will be fairly restrictive regarding how many users can access the materials and what they can then do with it. At the moment, though, the law in the UK does not extend to non-print materials. It is certainly true that Scandinavian countries are leading the world on the law in this regard.

Using images in OHP’s for lectures

Chris Willis, Copyright Administrator, OPEL Project, Birkbeck College Library asked:

Would I need copyright permission to use an image as an OHP illustration in a lecture or seminar, or would this come under fair use?

Charles replies:
Since it is not for one of the permitted purposes (research, private study, reporting current events or criticism or review), it cannot be fair dealing. It is therefore safest to request permission. However, it must be said the damage you are causing the copyright owner might be so slight that you may wish to risk not bothering to ask for permission, but that would be for you to judge.

Free e-journals and copyright

Another query from Birbeck College related to an article from a free e-journal:

We have a copyright query which we wondered if you may be able to shed some light on. A lecturer has printed off some articles from a free electronic journal and wants to put them in short loan, but we’re not sure if this breaches copyright or not. Have you come across anything about this at any of the copyright conferences, etc. that you’ve been to? Does the fact that it is freely available mean that it doesn’t have the same copyright restrictions as something we have paid for?

Charles replies:
The fact that something is free is irrelevant. It is just as much copyright infringement to reproduce something from a free newspaper as reproducing something from a newspaper you pay for. The material in the electronic journal enjoys copyright and the lecturer is wrong to make printouts and distribute them without seeking permission. What the lecturer should do is either get formal permission, or draw the attention of students to the relevant URL. It is then up to the students themselves to take their chances under ‘fair dealing’. The library should advise the lecturer to stop doing this, and should certainly not become a party to the infringement by stocking the material in its short loan or any other part of its collections.

Author details

Professor Charles Oppenheim
Co-Director, International Institute of Electronic Library Research
Division of Learning Development
De Montfort University
Hammerwood Gate, Kents Hill
email: charles@dmu.ac.uk