Coates, J., Owen, V. & Reilly, S. (Eds.) Navigating copyright for libraries De Gruyter Saur, 2022. x, 547 p. Euro99.95; ISBN 978-3-11-073715-8. Open access (pdf). (IFLA Publications, vol. 181)
The twenty chapters included in the book are quite independent of each other, but they are divided into four parts reflecting the main topics: the history of the copyright is the subject of the first part (Copyright basics), user rights and public interest the second, which includes seven chapters and is largest from this point of view. International developments focused on library involvement in the process of copyright development are explored in the third part. The fourth one looks into emerging issues related to modern tensions caused by the use of digital technologies and tensions related to cultural diversity or freedom of expression.
A historical overview of copyright development in British and US law, but also touching on some European countries, is provided by T. Cochrane and J. Coates in the first two chapters of the book. The second chapter also introduces the main concepts of related rights and licencing as well as of digital rights management.
The authors of the chapters included in the second part on public domain and users' rights explain the limitations of and exeptions from the copyright laws, the balancing of the rights of copyrightholders and users and its rationale, the characteristics and importance of the public domain for societies, the role of libraries in expanding this said domain, the effect of digital trasformation on copyright and users' rights as well as library aims and functions. They are very good advocates of the library and users' rights cause, however, after reading these chapters I was left with an impression of a suffocating over-bureaucratized system heavily influenced by big business powers and a losing battle of libraries to maintain what is left of public domain. It seems that the only way to expand it is to disregard the copyright interests by following the 'grey' path (p. 65) left by the existing legislation.
This impression is slightly, but only slightly diffused by the texts in the third part presenting the results of the efforts of library and user organisations negotiating their rights through international organisations, such as the World Intellectual Property Association and the World Trade Organisation. However, the effort required to implement the regulations and secure the rights of people with print disabilities, the privacy of users, to ensure the supremacy of national legislations in cultural areas, and even to educate indifferent users, seems to be enormous for a poorly funded institution, such as a library, especially considering the South African case presented in Chapter 14. Nevertheless, this part suggests some progress on a high policy level.
In part four, we meet a bunch of new developments, hopeful and threatening at the same time: e-lending in libraries, open access publishing, transformative agreements, content filtering regulation in different countries, indigenous culture intellectual property rights in Australia, data mining with artificial intelligence tools, and management problems caused by user generated content in libraries. The range of these problems covers all kinds of issues, starting from broad societal ones to narrow technology applications. Moreover, all of them may be caused by the same single development. Thus, the picture of the copyright in libraries becomes even richer.
I admit that my review has been written in an impressive and emotional key rather than trying critically assess the presented texts. However, the book is quite extensive and close academic analysis of the texts is simply not quite feasible in a review, especially as the chapters are quite independent from each other. The chapters are written by highly competent authors, experts in their fields, especially in international legislation and regulation of copyright related issues. So the quality of the texts in terms of ideas, used concepts and factual details is high. The only critical comment that I have about the team of authors is an obvious bias towards English speaking countries. There are only two who are outside this area. Having in mind that international copyright legislation affects other language areas, especially small markets, the absence of their representatives raises the question if this IFLA publication is really concerned about all its members. Some of the authors provide information about situation in other countries and cultural diversity is considered in some, but these views may be biased by specific positions of the authors.
Another critical comment concerns the open access publication. It lacks an index, which may be very useful for finding particular content by prospective readers. The only figure in the text needs colours to understand it properly, but is printed in indistinguishable dark tones.
The book is an obvious item for academic libraries of the universities doing research in law and information science and teaching these disciplines. This will help each chapter to find its audience. The open access version is also very useful for this purpose, as it may help librarians to assess the need for the book by their readers and will provide possibility to read it to many activists who are outside academic environment.
University of Borås
How to cite this review
Maceviciute, E. (2022). Review of: Coates, J., Owen, V. & Reilly, S. (eds.) Navigating copyright for libraries De Gruyter Saur, 2022. Information Research, 27(3), review no. R742 [Retrieved from http://www.informationr.net/ir/reviews/revs742.html]
Information Research is published four times a year by the University of Borås, Allégatan 1, 501 90 Borås, Sweden.