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Gov won't force publishers to hand paywalled content to libraries

Paid-for online content to be exempt from public archive

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The UK Government has scrapped plans to force publishers to place a copy of paid-for online content in legal deposit libraries for the public to access for free.

The government had proposed new regulations governing what digital content should be made available to legal deposit libraries (LDLs), the six libraries that have the right to a free copy of every work published. The costs to publishers of making paid-for content available outweighed the public benefit that the free archiving would bring, the Government said in its response to its consultation.

Publishers of paid-for media on the internet would welcome the decision, the government said.

The government said that it would produce new draft regulations outlining how free content produced by UK publishers on the internet should be stored. Offline content, such as CDs and DVDs, will also be included in the new plans.

The government had been consulting on regulations to assist in the interpretation of the Legal Deposit Libraries Act. Under that law publishers must send a free copy of their work to the British Library and to any other LDL that requests it.

The British Library, the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales, the university libraries of Oxford and Cambridge, and Trinity College Dublin make up the government's list of LDLs.

Last year, the government consulted with publishing houses, libraries and archivists about how to form regulations for non-print media.

The British Library said in its consultation response (29-page/160KB PDF) that new regulations should address how access to content would be regulated after copyright has expired; and whether a sunset clause that would end the legislation after a period would be appropriate.

Opening up content stored behind paywalls to free access, making the works available on or near the date of publication and making it accessible outside of LDL premises would have a "substantial" negative impact commercially for newspaper groups, the Newspaper Licensing Agency said in its consultation reply (six-page/386KB PDF).

Online replicas of printed works will replace the paper versions in the archive, cutting the cost to the publishing sector, under the new draft regulations, the government said.

Plans to harmonise software systems used by the LDLs to enable information to be shared digitally could also be considered.

Copyright © 2011, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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