Tuesday, March 13, 2012
US Libraries to Take Ownership of Digital?
We have to respect that there are only so many hands that can access the till before it becomes uneconomic. One of the challenges faced by public libraries and bookstores is that they are totally dependant on the digital aggregators and service providers for the supply of content and a digital platform. Instead of investing in growing their own infrastructure they opted to leave it to others and then are surprised when those same players threaten to sidestep them or end up having the real relationship with the consumers.
Why did the Bookseller’s and Library bodies not build their own service, to both host digital files and service them to their members? Why did they effectively role over and leave it to others to grab the space? It was potentially on the agenda, but often dismissed as not being ‘their’ businesses. Was this a wise move?
Last year the Douglas County Libraries in Colorado started to take control of their own content and this has attracted much attention and is being watch by other libraries and publishers in the US. Douglas County have started to purchase ebook files directly from publishers and host these on their own Adobe ACS4 Content Server and serve them up directly to their communities. The Califa Group, which claims to be the largest library network in California, has now decided to follow the same route.
Once a member has been authenticated they will be able to borrow ebooks in the EPUB format that will work on a variety of devices. There may also be links provided to buy ebooks.
The libraries are also working on the legal framework that was produced with librarylaw.com, which is not a formal contract but based on documents that spell out terms of engagement with publishers and avoids costly and time-consuming contracts with each publisher.
A “Statement for Common Understanding for Purchasing Econtent,” asserts the library’s rights under the first sale doctrine of the Copyright Act:
The Library may lend a copy to a library user under First Sale 17 U.S.C. Sect. 109. The Library may make incidental copies as necessary to perform the lending function. The lending copy is an ‘evanescent’ copy that disappears after a set period such as two weeks. During that time, the copy is not available to any other party. Incidental exercises of other lawful rights constitute non-infringing ‘fair use.’
It also affirms the library’s obligation to safeguard the intellectual content of a copyright owner:
The Library may not make multiple unauthorized copies to sell or lend. The Library may lend one copy to one user at a time. For example, if the Library buys four copies of a work, it may lend four copies simultaneously. It may not make derivative works, such as translations or movies. These are exclusive rights granted to the copyright owner 17 U.S.C. Sect. 106.
The framework also describes the library’s need to own (not lease) files, the library’s digital rights management system and the case for traditional library discounts to be applied.
The library market’s ability to act in a consortia manner may add another dimension as they are able to share contract deals with publishers, code, interfaces and much more re experience and for smaller publishers this may prove a real opportunity. Although it sounds straight forward and logical this is still just a small initiative which still faces interesting challenges and many potential push back.