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‘Evening meeting’. Somehow the words don’t conjure up the
perfect way to spend a warm summer’s evening - unless
you’re addicted to evening-classes! So, why go?

Professional evening meetings aren’t designed to give an
‘instant fix’ on how to become a star performer during
the day. They have a more mind-expanding function: the
chance to collect the seeds of ideas which will flower
just at the right moment in a week’s…. a month’s….. a
year’s time.

Such an event was the July meeting of the Southern
Branch. The speaker was Professor Charles Oppenheim, of
the University of Loughborough; his topic: recent
developments on the copyright scene. Not, however, a dry
presentation of the latest changes in the law of
copyright, but a fascinating meander through a variety of
issues: the EU Draft Directive, Crown Copyright, JISC,
NESLI, HERON and eCLA. The linking theme was: confusion
and change. And, as a key exhibit, the Professor proudly
wore (of course, for illustrative purposes only) his
snazzy, but illegally produced, Disney tie!

The Draft Directive. Important as it is, any discussion
of EU documentation policy produces a feeling of numbness
in non-experts – and that includes most of us. So it was
refreshing to have the topic introduced with a useful
non-technical outline of the influence of EU Directives
on domestic governments (and the penalties for ignoring
them), the role of Draft Directives and the (non)-impact
of the European Parliament’s near-rubber stamping of the
Draft Directive on Copyright.

However, being able to understand the concepts does not
make any more palatable a document that seeks to severely
limit access to electronic information and restrict its
dissemination and use: no more viewing or re-transmitting
of material by computer without the copyright owner’s
say-so. And how many rights-holders will say ‘yes’ and
not charge a fee? Such a change would place electronic
information in a quite different league from printed
material to which one would, for the time being, be able
to enjoy unrestricted access. We were urged to lobby MPs
and relevant Ministers before it is too late!

Crown Copyright. Britain and Ireland are virtually the
only countries to still enjoy the equivalent of Crown

Copyright – elsewhere Government information is either
unrestricted or copyright is automatically waived.

A Green Paper on Crown Copyright in the Information Age
appeared in 1998 and, following the receipt of comments
(with only two being wholly in favour of its
continuation), the Government produced a White Paper
entitled The Future Management of Crown Copyright last
March. Use of the term ‘management’ implies, of courseUse
of the term ‘management’ implies, of course, that
something will remain to be managed. The White Paper made
a dozen recommendations, including the coherent licensing
of all government information, the creation of an
Information Asset Register, and increased emphasis on
electronic exploitation allied to better access and
improved quality control. It would also permit charging
to continue for commercial publication, where added value
Can be shown.

To Professor Oppenheim, who sees the days of Crown
Copyright as being numbered, the White Paper came as a
great disappointment: it lacked ambition, it contained
too many confusing proposals and, most important, the
Government had missed the chance of abolishing the system
altogether (for fear of reducing its own authority and
losing potential income). Furthermore, our Government is
still too timid to make the leap of opening up its
intellectual property, encourage new ventures in
publishing and, so, actually increase its income.

At its recent meeting, the Legal Advisory Board of the
European Commission (Prof. Oppenheim is a member)
criticised the White Paper, recommending that official
information should be available free-of-charge (or at
marginal cost) to anyone and, where possible, be supplied
in the format requested by the user.

HERON, NESLI and JISC/PA. Librarians need access to
digitised materials and publishers see this as a threat:
once an item goes electronic the copyright holder can
lose control of the document, perfect copies can be made
free of charge and unauthorised versions, which may
reduce the publisher’s reputation, are also possible.
Some idea of feeling can be gauged from a speaker at the
Publishers’ Association conference who found himself
declaring, without a hint of irony: Last year I said that
we stood on the edge of a precipice. But there have been
many developments since then and now we are about to take
a great step forward.

The Follett Report, in 1993, tried to ease fears of
digitisation and, as a result, the eLib (Electronic
Libraries) Programme was launched the following year.
Many eLib projects require permission to digitise
materials and this caused alarm in publishing circles.
JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee),
therefore, joined forces with the Publishers’ Association
to develop agreed statements on fair dealing, pricing,
licensing and document supply: widely welcomed
developments which should lead to standard terms for text

Two important projects which elib is developing with
publishers, on behalf of higher education institutions,
are NESLI (the National Electronic Site-Licensing
Initiative) and HERON (Higher Education Resources On-
demand). NESLI is a scheme to create site licences for
digital runs of journals, while HERON will do the same
for journal articles and book chapters (but, perhaps,
with unreasonably-high fees).

eCLA. This is closely-linked to HERON and is the
Copyright Licensing Agency’s licensing scheme for
digitised materials – as yet, offered only to the higher
education and pharmaceutical sectors and allowing only
for exact replicas of originals. The proposed fee is 5p
per page digitised (that, of course, covering permission
only – not the cost of digitising).

A lively and controversial talk is sure to encourage
questions – and lots were forthcoming. Anyone who hadn’t
been able to make the meeting missed a highly-successful
evening. There was even a special service provided:
Southern Branch was taking a ‘holiday’ from its usual
venue to the Yorkshire Grey (an old haunt, now an
attractive brew-pub) and guides were on hand at The
Castle to ease the journey for anyone who had gone there
in error. As always, the evening ended with spirited
informal discussion during the usual free meal: a chance
to expand both mind and body!

Ralph Adam
August 1999.