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The British Library asks researchers and educators – Is copyright a help or a hindrance?

Mike Linksvayer, July 23rd, 2010

The British Library has published a new report, Driving UK Research – Is copyright a help or a hindrance? (pdf). Sourced directly from 13 active researchers and educators, the report reflects the hindrances that copyright as currently structured pose to their daily work, and a consensus on the need for reform.

The report also features a letter from Dame Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library, closing with the following:

There is a supreme irony that just as technology is allowing greater access to books and other creative works than ever before for education and research, new restrictions threaten to lock away digital content in a way we would never countenance for printed material.

Let’s not wake up in five years’ time and realise we have unwittingly lost a fundamental building block for innovation, education and research in the UK. Who is protecting the public interest in the digital world? We need to redefine copyright in the digital age and find a balance to benefit creators, educators, researchers, the creative industries – and the knowledge economy.

It would be difficult to state the fundamentals of what is at stake more clearly than this–globally. While some of the essays touch on specific issues in UK copyright, researchers, educators, and citizens everywhere will gain relevant insight from the report.

Creative Commons of course makes it easy for you to offer your work under terms in more in balance with the digital age–as The British Library and contributors have done with Driving UK Research–the report is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

One of the report’s contributors, Cameron Neylon, has used the choice offered by the range of Creative Commons tools to release his contribution of all copyright hindrances via the CC0 public domain waiver. Read Neylon’s essay and the entire report–and share!

8 Responses to “The British Library asks researchers and educators – Is copyright a help or a hindrance?”

  1. Copyright is a hindrance. Creating something new is not prohibited to those who copy.

  2. Definitely a hindrance. We need (more) exemptions for education and research uses. Right now, we’re wasting hundreds of hours chasing permissions and editing readings to remove copyright images.

  3. Christer says:

    @Sven van de Bergh:
    “Creating something new is not prohibited to those who copy.”

    So you truly believe that anyone can come up with something entirely “new”, out of the blue?

    Let’s face it – we humans can only make associations – generalize/specialize, improve or simplify – but everything we create is merely a combination of what others have created before us, and impressions from other sources.

    No “creator” can contribute with more than a tiny fraction of the creation.

    So I have to disagree – creating something new is actually more or less prohibited. Whatever you try to create.

  4. Nathan says:

    hindrance – I too use CC0 :)

  5. Davis Foulger says:

    Copyright is more hindrance than help now. The time extensions that have pushed copyright out to decades are particularly problematic, as has put an increasing number of books into publishing limbo. There are an increasing number of cases where the author cannot be located (and has probably died) having left no one responsible (or at least identifiable as responsible) for providing copyright permissions.

    I and others would love to reuse a graphic in a book that was coauthored by Marshall McLuhan for which the lead author and copyright holder can no longer be found. Under old copyright law this wouldn’t be a problem now (copyright would have expired), but under current copyright law the graphic cannot be legally used. I believe this has prevented an interested publisher from putting the book back in print, as well.

  6. Alex Moquin says:

    But then look at the other side. What about when you send out a novel that is going to sell a great many books. Without copyright, someone could much more easily take your book and sell it before it’s even published (potentially)(I say more easily since it’s not impossible even with copyright, they will just be (usually) sue-able). Now, lets say we replace our current copyright system with something similar to what creative commons licenses do(sorry if I’m off, I’ve not very deeply read into it): anything you make is yours, and no one can make a profit off of it; unless, of course, they change it. So, let’s take the same example. This time, when your precious manuscript is “stolen” the other person edits it. He adds a few lines here, there, and takes one or two out over there. Now, as far as I know, under cc his book is a new one. He gets it out to the market first, and you end up making no profit.

  7. @Alex Moquin

    Yes, and?

    Copyright law wasn’t introduced because you have some “right” to make a profit when you create a work; its intent is to promote said creation by guaranteeing to some degree the profit incentive. What is at issue is whether the modern copyright law in modern times is a net benefit to society — if it isn’t, as with any law, it should be modified or abolished.

  8. Malcolm says:

    @AAron

    What? I don’t understand. Are you saying that being able to profit from your own work is out dated ? Are you saying that perhaps some sectors of society IE, research and education should be able to use that work and then profit from said work? I’m not sure what your saying here. Please explain.

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