Books are not mushrooms and do not grow in the dark: we tend to know they're there and we know the frame within which they work. Copyright Compliance is one in a useful line of books about information law from Paul Pedley and others, published by Facet Publishing (which is owned by CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, formerly The Library Association). This in turn is part of a wider interest and trend in legally orientated books for library and information practitioners, one that is very large indeed if we factor in studies of law and ethics in fields like software, patents, Internet, e-commerce, and telecoms.
So, seeing announcements of the new title, readers, who are likely to be professionals in training and in practice (and a constellation of others working with data and databases, freedom of information and privacy, information and electronic management, Internet matters and the like), will recall and compare earlier works like Essential Law for Information Professionals (second edition, Facet, 2006 ) and Digital Copyright (second edition, Facet, 2007 ). Such readers, too, will know how useful it is to know what the law says, how it can and should be interpreted and implemented, why it matters, and where specific legal advice is really needed. Paul Pedley (Head of Research at the Intelligence Unit of The Economist, a newspaper, and a well-known writer and trainer in the field) has a clear, practical approach, keeps on top of his brief, and successfully bridges two professional areas that have, in recent years, converged – information and law.
The book Copyright Compliance appears simultaneously with an online subscription service – edited by Pedley and published by Facet – called Keeping Within the Law (KWtL). It is the current flagship item on the Facet Web site. This event is exciting but means that a review at this time must accommodate both items. This one tries to achieve that. For starters, my position is that two overriding factors are in play that give the online option the advantage : first updatability – the law is fast-changing daily, and books, however cutting edge, date rapidly; second, flexible access – information practitioners come at and to the law in an infinite number of ways (practical, theoretical, legalistic); information practitioners are of so many kinds, that a resource needs to anticipate all these factors at the same time.
Other features – search facilities, e-newsletters, blog functions, Q&A, current legislation (UK, USA, EU, international), links (often deep ones) to Web sites, opportunities to e-mail the editor – are things we come to expect. As a result, the Pedley-Facet offer is a Good Thing overall, a logical development of Pedley's and Facet's legal publishing theme in the last ten years, and at last, with KWtL, a service of that kind can claim to offer competitive value to the wide constituency of information professionals (not just librarians, of course) that CILIP claims to address.
On its fringes of course (areas like competition law, e-commerce, human rights, contract law, liability and tort) it goes head-to-head with LexisNexis, Westlaw and the big boys. Consequently, it must know its boundaries if it is to succeed. Given that many different groups may want to use it, too exclusive a demand-led evolution of this Web site might turn it into a hybrid of use to nobody.
The flip side of this, of course, is that what we have here is a functionally useful book in Copyright Compliance overshadowed by its big sister the Web site KWtL. The difference in price is obvious – the subscription rates are between £175 and £326 a year , and subscriptions depend on how long and robust the project is (we read that Pedley has a team around him) – but for my money what you see is what you get and you get a great deal more, formatted in ways you really want, in the subscription service.
The book itself is an awkward mixture of stuff. I read it three times with different hats on: as a practical librarian, picking out advice on fair dealing and the guidance for risk management and copyright policy (chapters 4, 8, 10 and 12), and was reminded of books by Sandy Norman and Graham Cornish ; as a legal eagle, scrutinising a competent analysis of changing law and database law early on, nice arguments about remedies and damages, a set of useful cases in the middle, and reminders of Creative Commons options and clearance later on; as a law teacher, where I would draw on it for students (Pedley's books are always useful here) – perhaps the mediation of disputes, or re-use or Crown-waivered material, or liability under licence.
Persistently there were nagging feelings of inadequacy, even where it interpreted the law (more as a lawyer-helping-a-lay-client than ever before). Yet three problems at least reared their heads – first, the bit-of-this-bit-of-that structure of the book, turning this way and that, without any of the flexibility offered online - now it was practical things like sample forms, now it was international cases, now it was a hint of confidentiality, now it was online piracy.
The second problem for me was the inability of the book properly to follow up on, and link up, themes that kept coming to the surface, above all reutilization/retransmission/redissemination, how and if there are challenges in common for libraries and Internet service providers and electronic rights managers and FOI specialists, and the extent to which different readers (say librarians, say intranet managers, say software specialists) might and would need the material (the cases in chapter 5 are interesting but to whom and why? fair use, the US version of fair dealing, is interesting but the book is heavily UK-centric).
The third problem was its extensive use of information from sources like the IPO (the Intellectual Property Office) and OPSI (the Office of Public Sector Information) and the Gower report on intellectual property (2006) . Large chunks – all relevant, all topical, but all so much more attractive as links. This trio of problems is not helped by an index that really is a disgrace, above all for a CILIP-related business arm – gaps, odd concepts, inconsistencies. The index would not otherwise stand out as poor were it not for the wider implications of how suitable it now is for companies like Facet to publish works like this in online (rather than in paper-based) formats. The index looked scrambled together.
The Keeping Within the Law service itself is the initiative waiting to happen and is the natural summation of Pedley's engagement with the area. It is user-friendly and well designed, with numerous ways into useful material – side-bars of click-lists like legislation, legal cases, factsheets, and in-depth articles. Non- and potential subscribers can get a clear idea what is there and samples are on offer. A search facility allows one, say, to pin down material on e-commerce (mine came up with Internet regulation, current regulations, identity theft, and data protection, predictable but quick and relevant). An e-newsletter and a blog are part of the package.
The design of the service is clear and logical and, if it can be sustained at this promising level, it will almost certainly supplant any more books for this hybrid information-law readership, including books like Copyright Compliance itself. Conceptually – from both legal and an information profession viewpoints – the core range of material here is good (copyright law, digital rights, European Directives, online music, records management, intranets and so forth).
By allowing users to come in at any point, it avoids the structural awkwardness of the book. How well it really does address the questions practitioners have, and how well its editorial team can keep it up to date and competitively value-added, remains to be seen. Facet is 'grown up' now it has this subscription service, even though we can only guess that its business plan has included enough marketing to assure it that libraries can afford the service (and these, particularly special libraries, may well end up being the main subscribers). Some specialist groups in the information field, too, like FOI officers, have their own networks.
A break-even may come for the project – as indeed for CILIP itself – in whether it can succeed in convincing enough of the information community (which is after all too diverse for any one service, or professional body, to claim hegemony) that it has what they want. The books will trickle on to their traditional audience, and e-books even less so (one of Pedley's appeared in that format): where law is concerned in this field, online is the way ahead. Felicitously, CILIP thinks so too with respect to ethics, with its 'information ethics' facility .
- "Essential Law for Information Professionals", Stuart Hannabuss, October 2006, Ariadne, Issue 49, http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue49/hannabuss-rvw/
- "Digital Copyright", Dr Stuart Hannabuss, January 2008, Ariadne, Issue 54, http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue54/hannabuss-rvw/
- Subscription rates for the Keeping Within the Law service at time of writing (10 June 2008 – Ed.) are as follows: non-commercial annual price for 1 subscriber £225, for 2-5 subscribers £200, and for 6-10 subscribers £175; and commercial annual price for 1 subscriber £326, for 2-5 subscribers £290, and for 6-10 subscribers £254. Further information may be obtained by e-mailing Facet at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sandy Norman, Practical Copyright for Information Professionals : the CILIP Handbook, Facet Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1 85604 490 4
- Graham Cornish, Copyright : Interpreting the Law for Libraries, Archives and Information Services, (now in its revised 4th edition), Facet Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1 856-4 508 0
- Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, December 2006, HMSO
- Information Ethics is a joint initiative between InfoResponse Associates and Oxford Business Intelligence, in collaboration with CILIP. You can find it at http://www.infoethics.org.uk. It includes case studies 'covering a wide range of issues in academic and public libraries, the not-for-profit sector and others', as well as material on topics like the ethical dimensions of the information society and competitive intelligence ethics.