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To read comments to this article, go here
The British Library Gets It!
Monday, September 25 2006 @ 04:04 PM EDT

Finally! Somebody gets it that DRM is altering the copyright law bargain, by not allowing fair dealing/fair use. And it's the British Library that is speaking out and saying that the same rules of the road should apply in the digital world as they have always done. Copyright law includes fair use/fair dealing, and there will be incalculable damage if copyright law in the digital environment doesn't retain those limitations on the copyright owner's rights. The Library has issued an IP Manifesto [PDF]. I wish to say thank you to the British Library for issuing this document.

The IP Manifesto's key recommendations include, quoting from the press release:
* Existing limitations and exceptions to copyright law should be extended to encompass unambiguously the digital environment;

* Licenses providing access to digital material should not undermine longstanding limitations and exceptions such as ‘fair dealing';

* The right to copy material for preservation purposes – a core duty of all national libraries – should be extended to all copyrightable works;

* The copyright term for sound recordings should not be extended without empirical evidence of the benefits and due consideration of the needs of society as a whole;

* The US model for dealing with ‘orphan works' should be considered for the UK;

* The length of copyright term for unpublished works should be brought into line with other terms (ie: life plus 70 years).

In other words, copyright law should not change in the digital environment, and if it doesn't change, then fair dealing and fair use are just as applicable there. Here's the press release. This sentence says it all: "Licenses providing access to digital material should not undermine longstanding limitations and exceptions such as ‘fair dealing.'" And here's another angle to the story.

I am so thrilled, I can't even express myself. And you know how rare that is! You may recall that I wrote a lengthy article detailing exactly what DRM was like and what it was doing to their collection and accessibility of the world's knowledge, The British Library - The world's knowledge DRM'd and for a price," and I did hear from them about the article, so if I contributed to today's result in any small part at all, I can die happy. Of course, it is Larry Lessig who first noticed the problem and made it an issue for us all to consider.

You know how I always tell you that the law often moves to a better place as people get to understand new issues? It's happening. I see it. And I am glad.


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