Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from Stephen Godfree, Leaf Coppin Technical Publishers

  I should like to comment on the supposed problems surrounding libraries and the academic journals market. As a scientific publisher of over twenty years' experience, and a writer on copyright, my observations may be of some use.

  You should be aware that UK librarians, whatever their present complaints, were quite happy to be part of the non-fee paying "library privilege" copying that the British Library exploited more (or less) legally under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. supposedly for "research and private study", this phrase was liberally interpreted as including commercial companies, who were quite happy to pay the falsely low prices charged by the BL's Document Supply Centre, with which we could not compete. This was a major cause of loss of income for publishers, for which they have had to compensate. The enclosed piece gives more detail.

  Scientific publishers may also have overseas customers who, not being controlled by EU directive, can copy without payment to copyright owners. These include American universities, who copy under the "Inter-Library Loan" banner, as well as known violators in countries such as India and China. Such continuing losses have also to be countered by higher prices if publications are to survive.

  The fortuitous development of web-based electronic publishing, with its powers of control over access, has a huge potential benefit to scientific publishers, who can by this means avoid the depradations of the copying community, librarians included, and so restore the balance that used to hold, It equally permits the provision of lower priced academic access. Allow the publishers to develop this model, now that (only in the past months) copying has been brought into check by the implementation of the EU copyright directive, and you will find that scientific publishers, who are fully aware of the need for harmony with the academic world, will act accordingly.

  The problems that librarians, particularly the British Library, have faced in terms of pricing, are largely of their own making. I hope that in hearing their pleas, you will apply a degree of objectivity as to the causes.

February 2004

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