Librarians wielding lasers

April 24, 2008

Libraries are having a hard time in the copyright crossfire. First Erik Ringmar ("Liberate and disseminate", 10 April) invites everyone to scan the holdings of their university library and release pirate copies on a website. Then Keith Ramsey (Letters, 17 April) berates libraries for restricting access to material.

The library standpoint? First, we'd use our lasers to melt the library cards of the "scanner liberators" and report pirates to the university discipline committee. Second, we give as much access to as much material as we lawfully can. The most usual and least understood reason for restricting access is the contract behind every item of digital material. Ironically, the basis of such contracts is copyright law.

Toby Bainton, Secretary, Society of College, National and University Libraries.

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