Pedley, Paul. Digital copyright. London: Facet Publishing, 2005. xxii, 134 p. ISBN 1-85604-573-0. £41.07 (Executive i-briefing series).
In front of me on my computer screen, I have the first e-book published by Facet Publishing. Never before have I written a review of an e-book, so it is 'a first night' both to the publisher and the reviewer (my guess is that the same applies to the author - Paul Pedley).
The subject that the text covers is very relevant for an e-book: digital copyright. The Introduction briefly describes the conceptual, international and internal British political context of copyright in general and states the purpose of the book as follows:
This book is designed to provide a brief overview of some of the key issues that emerge when one tries to understand how copyright law applies to digital works". (p. xxii)
The last chapter also lists the sources that will keep an interested reader up to date with present developments and future changes. As usual, books on copyright mainly focus on the legal scene of just one country - in this case the UK - but the legal cases illustrating the text, some listed sources, and one of the chapters introduce the international dimension. It is also worth mentioning that the main concepts of categories of digital information, licensing and exceptions, permitted acts, or economic and moral rights are internationally accepted. Therefore, the book can readily find its users outside the UK.
Though the disclaimer (p. xvii) warns that the author "is not a lawyer and is not able to give legal advice", his knowledge and experience of the subject is beyond any doubt. Most probably, finally, one can safely rely on the warnings given in the book as it appears that:
Because there is so much legal uncertainty, copyright issues are really a question of working out how best to minimize the risk of being accused of copyright infringement. (p. 99)
Actually, after having read the book, I was absolutely sure just of one thing: I do not infringe anyone's copyright while searching the web. As for the rest of my activities, I cannot have or give any guarantees. Try as much as I can, it seems that one or another type of infringement may unwittingly occur at some point. It is worth saying that I am very much aware of the problem, interested in it, have some knowledge of it and try to avoid any possible infringements. If my impression is correct and anyone at all may find oneself in the situation of an unwitting criminal offence - copyright violation - because of the existing uncertainty and totality, something is wrong with the idea itself. I am far from the thought that the rights of the authors and producers should not be protected. That is my own interest, as, after all, my own production always falls under copyright protection. However, in this age of total information consumption for the satisfaction of sophisticated (and sometimes basic) needs of citizens in information or knowledge societies, the approach to the problem should be less intimidating. As it seems from the book, there are helpful and hopeful developments towards this end.
Looking at the structure of the book I have found it very informative. The glossary is given at the beginning of the main text and serves as background information. Inside the text, one can find descriptions of court cases, tips (or short advice), boxes with explanations and definitions, sample wording that can be used in various documents on copyright or use of copyrighted works, checklists, and flow charts. All this additional material can be viewed separately, as the Contents page is extended to include the additional listings apart from usual chapters and sub-chapters. The page numbers in the Contents page are clickable and there are other internal text links as well as external links taking straight to the websites of mentioned institutions or texts of online documents. It is especially convenient to use the index. On the other hand, this convenience contains a usual danger of the web - being lost in surfing and forgetting what you were doing. Nevertheless, I was enthusiastically clicking and enjoyed the enhanced space of the book. By now I have found only one faulty link: in the Contents a click on the page with the list of Legal cases takes one to the Abbreviations.
There is another helpful feature in this product. Though the book itself is in .pdf format and the copying of the text as well as pasting facilities are blocked, there are attachments and comments in .doc format containing the common texts that may be useful for the readers (e.g., declarations, copyright release form, etc.).
I also discovered that one can flexibly adjust the size of the page and fonts to read comfortably and there are a number of features to work with the text: highlight, underline, insert comments, etc. Most probably other e-books have the same facilities, but I have never explored the others to the same extent. I also have a feeling that very rarely accompanies reading a paper book - the feeling of fragmentation, lack of the sense of a coherent whole. I am not sure if this is the effect of the text, the way one reads an e-book in general, or just the way I did it. But I am sure there will be opportunities to examine this feeling in the future.
Returning to Pedley's work, I would recommend it to those who deal with digital libraries and work in usual libraries first of all. It may also serve a number of other agencies concerned with education, information service, production of information, etc. This is a useful desktop handbook for them in both content and form.
Prof. Elena Maceviciute