Tuesday, 8 February 2011

New book - reviewed by Susan Singleton

Copyright: Interpreting the Law for Libraries, Archives and Information Services

Graham Cornish

This useful book is a godsend for those in libraries and indeed law firm information departments who have to grapple with the complex law of copyright as it applies to them. While many lawyers may feel they understand copyright, the application of it to the library and academic sectors is not well known. There are complex exceptions to copyright infringement which apply. The favourite question of the more dubious clients as to what proportion of a book or journal may be copied before it becomes copyright infringement is even more complex in a library environment. In fact the best advice to such clients is start from scratch as copying a substantial part only means an important part and that might be a small part of a work. Libraries have a little more latitude because of the legislation.

This book covers:

• literary dramatic and musical works;

• artistic works;

• sound recordings;

• films and videos;

• broadcasts;

• databases; and

• computer programs and websites.

The fact this book is now in its fifth edition illustrates how useful it is. It is also a useful size. For an IP lawyer frequently needing to look at the weightier tomes such as Copinger & Skone James on Copyright, this book is a welcome relief and should be particularly useful for those who do not need to know the entirety of copyright law in all its forms but need an easy to use but thorough guide to the legislation as it applies to libraries. Graham Cornish is programme director for the IFLA Availability of Publications Programme and is responsible for copyright interpretation throughout the British Library.

The book has an extremely useable format of questions and answers and a good written style of short sentences and clear English. The rules on copying from periodicals are well described and the question of when a charge can be made is addressed. The appendices give useful statutory declaration forms which alone would justify purchasing the book. Any reasonably sized law firm library would benefit from purchasing the book.

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