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June 13, 2003

Adrian Mourby ("Why I want to see films in Oxford University's Bodleian Library", THES , May 30) has put his finger on one of the many deficiencies in the legislation governing the deposit of UK published materials in the copyright libraries (there are actually six, not three, as stated, in the British Isles).

It is certainly not any in-built prejudice against film as a serious research resource that excludes it from the deposit in the Bodleian. The sad fact is that the law in the UK has failed so far to keep pace with the 20th century.

Neither has the law embraced all the ramifications arising from the UK's failure to reflect the rise of the film industry, not to mention the invention of the computer or the advent of the worldwide web.

The British Universities Film and Video Council has made as many 20th-century moving images as possible available for research, and new legislation on the compulsory deposit of electronic materials is wending its way through parliament. The fact remains that legal deposit is seen by the publishing industry generally - and by the entertainment industry in particular - as a threat to its intellectual property rights, and especially to its profit margins.

The net effect of all this is that unless and until the "public interest" argument is given greater weight than hitherto, the haemorrhage of the nation's recorded heritage will continue, and the Bodleian Library and its sister copyright libraries will not have the tools to meet all the legitimate research needs of users like Mourby. More's the pity.

Reg Carr
Bodleian librarian
University of Oxford

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