Photographers slam British Library's mission creep
Big bureaucrats scoff at the law
The Stop Clause 43 campaigners have sounded a warning over the British Library's newspaper digitisation initiative.
The project certainly isn't Freetard friendly. In fact, it demands money for access to material that's free to view today in Colindale. The big institution appears to have taken a Google-like approach: shoot first, and ask questions later. It's questionable whether the Library has the rights to the stuff it is digitizing. While it has a historical exclusive license, this doesn't cover online rights. But one of the oddest aspects is that the venture, in partnership with Friends Reunited owner Brightsolid, is a state-granted commercial monopoly.
A historical analogy is the East India company, which successfully saw off all threats to its monopoly status for over 200 years, adopting the functions of the state itself. It eventually merged into the imperial bureaucracy.
For Stop 43's Paul Ellis, this is "Big Culture" - what he calls the powerful galleries, museums, and quangos like the Arts Council - taking the mickey.
"It's clear now that the whole orphan works programme is one big supertanker, taking just as long to turn and stop," Ellis told us. "The British Library's statement reads as if Clause 43 had been enacted. Unfortunately for them, the supertanker has a new captain.
"Big Culture has looked at Google and wants to do the same thing. They just want to get on digitizing and build up a head of steam. Then nobody will be able to do anything about it."
The wrinkle is that newspaper copyright is far from straightforward. Only unsigned articles lapse from copyright after seventy years. For bylined pieces and photographs it's life plus 70. And since a newspaper is a bundle of all three, it's a complex picture.
James Murdoch also weighed in on the plans, pointing out that it isn't a free service, but a private monopoly.
"This is not simply being done for posterity, nor to make free access for library users easier, but also for commercial gain via a paid‐for website.
"The move is strongly opposed by major publishers. If it goes ahead, free content would not only be a justification for more funding, but actually become a source of funds for a public body."
So it's no Kumbaya giveaway - something that the freetards, who think in black and white terms, have yet to realise.
It's useful to place the project into the larger context of mission creep. Earlier this year the Library vowed to archive the UK web - again, a load of other people's stuff - with the taxpayer paying the bill, while a cosy monopoly and the bureaucrats reap the reward.
A bit like the bank bail-out, really.
There are many other alternative approaches that can benefit us punters as well as the creators, without creating permanent jobs for the bureaucrats. We'll explore some of these next week. ®
So many misleading statements
- "The project certainly isn't Freetard friendly. In fact, it demands money for access to material that's free to view today in Colindale"
It will still remain free to view in Colindale. It's an added access, not replacing the old one. It seems like you prefer to wad through microfilm rather than use full text search and instant access to issues by date.
- "It's questionable whether the Library has the rights to the stuff it is digitizing"
The Library doesn't say it has all the rights to all the stuff. Hence the periods that are potentially in copyright are handled by them through negotiations with the publishers.
- "While it has a historical exclusive license, this doesn't cover online rights"
It certainly has no "historical exclusive license". That term doesn't even make sense. It holds paper and microfilm copies of historical newspapers that probably few other places in the world have. The content before 1860 is almost certainly in the public domain (written at 20 years old, author died at 100, copyright elapses this year). Anyone who has the paper copy can scan it, republish it, etc.
- "This is not simply being done for posterity, nor to make free access for library users easier, but also for commercial gain via a paid‐for website."
Free for library users directly (provided they go the BL reading rooms), free after 10 years for everyone. This sentence is just wrong.
- "The move is strongly opposed by major publishers"
The major publishers are the only ones who could potentially lose out. The small publishers (not to mention that a great majority of pre-1900 publishers don't exist anymore) are too small to do digitization and selling the back-catalog themselves. If the big publishers are opposed, then the BL will not digitize their in-copyright periods. However I even doubt that they are opposed. This guy makes so many false statements that I really doubt he actually spoke to the big publishers and got their answer as opposed to talking out of his behind.
- "Earlier this year the Library vowed to archive the UK web - again, a load of other people's stuff"
Apparently this guy doesn't like history or checking sources. Since there is constantly stuff disappearing from the web and since the web has de facto become an important medium in the life of people, the country and democracy, it's quite important that in 100 year's time researchers will still be able to retrace what happened in the world after 2000. Archiving doesn't mean it's made available to the internet 5 minutes later with a BL logo. It means saving the stuff so that it's still around when the original websites are not around anymore.
If the Library doesn't archive the web and keep it, it will disappear. Archive.org is an alternative, but too sparse in many instances. In any case, this guy is probably dead against archive.org as well.
- "There are many other alternative approaches that can benefit us punters as well as the creators, without creating permanent jobs for the bureaucrats. We'll explore some of these next week".
Oh. I'm certainly interested how you want to save 19th century newspapers from falling to dust and get them be more accessible to the public. If it's about yesterday's newspaper, I don't care.
this must be done
Yes, it is for posterity, and no it must NOT be done by private corporations. Especially those associated with the name Murdoch, who brought us the delightful Fox News corporate propaganda network. And no, this is NOT like the bank bailout. A pathetic and shameful propaganda tactic there. This must be a comprehensive and unfiltered record for future generations to access. Piffling matters of copyright are crass and irrelevant in this context, hence the British Libraries' special exemption. Yet another patently absurd uber-pro-corporate article from the usual direction.
then enlighten me...
....what is this point I'm missing?