Librarians attack copyright proposals

June 25, 1999

University librarians have slated a draft copyright directive drawn up by the European Commission as being "even worse" for staff and students than its predecessor.

Fred Friend of the Standing Conference of National and University Libraries says the draft legislation threatens to create a "nightmare future" for teaching and research, with no copying of digital or print material being allowed without extra payment. The new version has increased the likelihood of such a scenario. The EC has, for example, added a clause stipulating that photocopying will be allowed only if "the rights holders receive fair compensation".

A similar condition has been added for use of materials for teaching and scientific research. Mr Friend, director of scholarly communication at University College, London, says similar wording has been added in the case of digital copying for private use.

"This will directly affect use of facilities such as cutting and pasting small sections of text. In effect, small-scale digital copying would have to be paid for, although payment could be avoided if the pasted copy were printed and then destroyed."

Barbara Schleihagen, spokeswoman for EBLIDA, the umbrella organisation for Europe's public and university libraries, says the new version is particularly dangerous for Britain and Ireland which have long practised "fair dealing". This allows copying of a limited amount of material for private study, teaching and research.

Ms Schleihagen says that Britain, Ireland, Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands are "extremely uneasy" about the proposals, while others, such as the French, are pushing for tough restrictions.

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