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April 17, 2008

While I agree that access to official documents should be free and unrestricted, Erik Ringmar ("Liberate and disseminate", 10 April) is wrong to state that ProQuest has any claim to the copyright of 19th-century parliamentary papers. The company holds the copyright to the images of those papers that it has created, but the originals are still in the public domain and may be freely copied and distributed by anyone with access to them.

In my experience, it is often libraries that restrict access to such material. Perhaps Ringmar's efforts might be better directed to lobbying the Government to produce free online editions of valuable historical resources such as these.

Ringmar's suggested approach to intellectual property is more worrying. Although large companies and senior academics can probably afford the loss of income that will result from the sort of action that he advocates, most of those who produce copyrighted material struggle to make a living and can only suffer if more people follow his example. Intellectual property law draws no distinction between copyright holders, and the protection it offers to the rich seems to be the inevitable price that must be paid for the protection that the rest of us need. If Ringmar can suggest a viable alternative, perhaps he would be good enough to enlighten us.

Keith Ramsey, Bristol Business School.

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