Saturday, September 23, 2006

Copyright is damaging humanities research

John KayA British Academy working group chaired by economist Prof. John Kay has found that, unsurprisingly, copyright is getting in the way of arts and humanities researchers. Conversely, not one Fellow of the Academy complained that their work had been used unfairly under the research-related copyright exceptions.

The report's conclusions were that:

  • Copyright law generally provides exemptions for fair dealing for private study and non-commercial research, and for purposes of criticism and review. These exemptions should normally be sufficient for academic and scholarly use.

  • The problems lie in narrow interpretation, both by rights holders and by publishers of new works which refer to existing copyright material. These problems are acute in some subjects, particularly music, and history and film studies.

  • Copyright holders have become more sensitive in defence of their rights, as a result of the development of new media, and are more aggressive in seeking to maximise revenue from the rights, even if the legal basis of their claims is weak.

  • Risk averse publishers, who are often themselves rights holders, demand that unnecessary permissions be obtained, and such permissions are often refused or granted on unreasonable terms.

  • There is an absence of case law, because the financial stakes involved in each individual case are small relative to the costs of litigation.

  • Publishers and authors are very uncertain as to the true position and misapprehensions are widespread.

  • There are well-founded concerns that new database rights and the development of digital rights management systems (DRMs) may enable rights holders to circumvent the effects of the copyright exemptions designed to facilitate research and scholarship.

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