back to article Photographers slam British Library's mission creep

The Stop Clause 43 campaigners have sounded a warning over the British Library's newspaper digitisation initiative. The project certainly isn't Freetard friendly. In fact, it demands money for access to material that's free to view today in Colindale. The big institution appears to have taken a Google-like approach: shoot …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As far as I understood it the British Library have the right to hold a copy of anything published in Britain and to make that copy available to members of the public. Does it actually make a difference whether that is stored digitially or not?

    I think the biggest bone of contention here is whether or not the library will allow people to take copies of the documents, whether they pay or not. I have heard the same argument regarding photocopiers in all public libraries. You'll often see people photocopying copyrihgt material in libraries and it's rare for the staff to say anything to them. The staff obviously believe that sticking a notice on the copier to the effect that people must not copy copyright material is the same thing as stopping them from doing it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Probably because the staff are librarians rather than police officers

      It's not their job to stop people from doing things. Even if they were police officers they wouldn't have to intervene, even if the copyright owner turned up in person and asked them to do so, since making a single copy of something for one's own use is not a crime (though it may be a tort).

      The notices are to make it clear that they are not encouraging people to infringe copyright.

      As I understand it, not being a lawyer and all that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Depends on what the copy is for...

      Section 29 of the CDPA 1988 ( is quite clear that if the material is "for the purposes of research or private study..." it "does not infringe any copyright in the work..." Our legislation-fiddling previous government saw fit to amend this in 2003 with the The Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 ( to read "for the purposes of research for a non-commercial purpose...". This basically makes it clear that copying of copyrighted materials for commercial use is forbidden. A sub-section was added for the purpose of private study which doesn't change the interpretation of the original act. The staff sticking a notice on the copier is at best a misguided token gesture--it's totally meaningless as the onus on copyright protection and enforcement lies with the copyright holder and not the library.

      1. Ivan Headache


        collects money and distributes it to photographers and artists for copies made in public libraries (and other places) the way the PRS does for music played in public places.

        Each year I have to fill out a claim form, listing books and magazines where my work has appeared. - later in the year I get a cheque.

        Perhaps that system will apply to the British Library's plan automatically.

    3. Hollerith 1

      Try photocopying at the British Library

      They are very, very strict as to the amount, and they do watch.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Hollerith 1

        Section 29 of the CDPA says that so long as it's not going to be used commercially for research and/or it is going to be used for private study, as much can be copied from a protected work as you like! If they give you agro, they hold a copy of the act, get it and show it to them! You need to refer to section 29 of The Copyright and Design Protection Act 1988 and part 9 of the The Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003.

  2. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Not sure this is an issue

    From the project's press release:

    'Along with out-of-copyright material from the newspaper archive - defined in this context as pre-1900 newspaper material - the partnership will also seek to digitise a range of in-copyright material, with the agreement of the relevant rightsholders. '

    If rights holders don't want their stuff digitised they have an opt out.

    I'd prefer someone respectable like the British Library was doing this rather than it not happening at all; or individual piecemeal preservation attempts by with wildly differing standards and technologies and no central repository.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    this must be done

    Yes, it is for posterity, and no it must NOT be done by private corporations. Especially those associated with the name Murdoch, who brought us the delightful Fox News corporate propaganda network. And no, this is NOT like the bank bailout. A pathetic and shameful propaganda tactic there. This must be a comprehensive and unfiltered record for future generations to access. Piffling matters of copyright are crass and irrelevant in this context, hence the British Libraries' special exemption. Yet another patently absurd uber-pro-corporate article from the usual direction.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: this must be done

      You haven't just missed the point. You've run past the point with your eyes shut, screaming.

    2. Luther Blissett

      A novel justification for sure

      "Think of the children!!!".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        then enlighten me...

        ....what is this point I'm missing?

  4. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    Same as for authors

    If you wrote a book and had it published in the UK the library automatically gets a copy from the publisher, but I don't see authors up in arms about this - because if you went into the library, copied that book and used it in a commercial context you'd be falling foul of a bunch of very old and well tested laws.

    Photographers have the same protection as authors here, which seems about right to me.

  5. Ian Tresman


    It costs Brightsolid a fair bit of cash to digitize several million newspaper pages. Is there anyone else stepping forward with a better offer? The library told me that:

    "When our 10-year contract with brightsolid expires the British Library will retain the digitised copies and be free to make them freely available online through the British Library website."

    Not ideal, but you'll get free access in a decade, and it won't have cost the taxpayer a penny.

    1. Stephen Soutar

      re: Costs

      "When our 10-year contract with brightsolid expires the British Library will retain the digitised copies and be free to make them freely available online through the British Library website."

      Is freely avaibale the same as available for free. LCD TVs are freely available, but cost lots of money.

      1. Shusui


        "Is freely available the same as available for free."

        No, unfortunately it's not the same. The British Library already have an archive of newspapers from 1800-1900 online and it costs to view them. At first sight their prices seem reasonable, but you often get hundreds of incorrect search results because their OCR is not wonderful.

  6. Paul Frankheimer

    So many misleading statements

    - "The project certainly isn't Freetard friendly. In fact, it demands money for access to material that's free to view today in Colindale"

    It will still remain free to view in Colindale. It's an added access, not replacing the old one. It seems like you prefer to wad through microfilm rather than use full text search and instant access to issues by date.

    - "It's questionable whether the Library has the rights to the stuff it is digitizing"

    The Library doesn't say it has all the rights to all the stuff. Hence the periods that are potentially in copyright are handled by them through negotiations with the publishers.

    - "While it has a historical exclusive license, this doesn't cover online rights"

    It certainly has no "historical exclusive license". That term doesn't even make sense. It holds paper and microfilm copies of historical newspapers that probably few other places in the world have. The content before 1860 is almost certainly in the public domain (written at 20 years old, author died at 100, copyright elapses this year). Anyone who has the paper copy can scan it, republish it, etc.

    - "This is not simply being done for posterity, nor to make free access for library users easier, but also for commercial gain via a paid‐for website."

    Free for library users directly (provided they go the BL reading rooms), free after 10 years for everyone. This sentence is just wrong.

    - "The move is strongly opposed by major publishers"

    The major publishers are the only ones who could potentially lose out. The small publishers (not to mention that a great majority of pre-1900 publishers don't exist anymore) are too small to do digitization and selling the back-catalog themselves. If the big publishers are opposed, then the BL will not digitize their in-copyright periods. However I even doubt that they are opposed. This guy makes so many false statements that I really doubt he actually spoke to the big publishers and got their answer as opposed to talking out of his behind.

    - "Earlier this year the Library vowed to archive the UK web - again, a load of other people's stuff"

    Apparently this guy doesn't like history or checking sources. Since there is constantly stuff disappearing from the web and since the web has de facto become an important medium in the life of people, the country and democracy, it's quite important that in 100 year's time researchers will still be able to retrace what happened in the world after 2000. Archiving doesn't mean it's made available to the internet 5 minutes later with a BL logo. It means saving the stuff so that it's still around when the original websites are not around anymore.

    If the Library doesn't archive the web and keep it, it will disappear. is an alternative, but too sparse in many instances. In any case, this guy is probably dead against as well.

    - "There are many other alternative approaches that can benefit us punters as well as the creators, without creating permanent jobs for the bureaucrats. We'll explore some of these next week".

    Oh. I'm certainly interested how you want to save 19th century newspapers from falling to dust and get them be more accessible to the public. If it's about yesterday's newspaper, I don't care.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Not with my taxes

      "Since there is constantly stuff disappearing from the web and since the web has de facto become an important medium in the life of people, the country and democracy, it's quite important that in 100 year's time researchers will still be able to retrace what happened in the world after 2000. "

      In a word: bollox.

      This is exactly why the British Library can't be trusted, indexing every bit of crap on the web is insane and all it does is create a permanent job at our expense.

      I smell a vested interest.

  7. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  8. NRF

    Similar Problems at TNA

    We recently posted an article about this very subject. Yes we would all like easily accessible primary sourced data and it is arguable that a commercial partner with the correct expertise (in this case Brightsolid) should be involved but the monopolistic licence period they receive as recompense for the scanning and database development costs should be for a period that fairly reflects the costs and reasonable profit expectations. Thereafter the data should be available at low cost for other third parties to develop, improve, offer free on websites if they choose, add to mapping or other added value improvements. This would mean that the data is free or low cost in the long term and placed on the web more efficiently in the short term. Those wanting access now would pay a reasonable premium (the subscription fee). However, there seems no cogent argument to keep these data sources, paid for by the public in the first instance, as a pay per view service in the long term. See our article at

  9. Anonymous Coward

    British Library

    Once wanted a Nikola Tesla title from there, and as a Brit Born and bred was told I am unable too, as not on a Education course!

    Now if I saw someone burning it down, would look the other way.

    1. The First Dave


      So, you freely admit that you consider this work to be valuable, but you don't care if it gets destroyed...

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