Here at the Scholarly Commons, we have resources to learn about copyright. For starters, you can check out our author’s rights and copyright page. You can also contact Copyright Librarian Sara Benson with further questions. Today, I’ll be reviewing Practical Copyright for Library and Information Professionals by Paul Pedley.
This book looked like a practical read, (after all, it even has the word “Practical” in the title) and turned out to be one of the more unique finds on the Scholarly Commons shelf. This is a guide to British copyright, pre-Brexit, written by Paul “not a lawyer” Pedley of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, which is the equivalent of the American Library Association, but across the pond. It is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in an overview of British copyright law, or learning more about librarianship around the world.
British Copyright Basics:
“Copyright is automatic. As soon as a work is created and meets the requirements for protection (that it is original, that it is fixed in a material form, that it is by a British citizen or was first published in the UK, and that it fits into the protected categories or species) the work will automatically be protected by UK copyright law”
-(Pedley 2015, 3).
“Copyright protects works that can be categorized as being one of the following: literary works, dramatic works, musical works, artistic works, sound recordings, films, broadcasts”
-(Pedley 2015, 2-3).
#FeeltheBerne or an attempt to standardize copyright law around the world.
Unlike a patent, which has no global standard (though the EU is trying to make unified patent application and court system called the Unitary Patent), copyrights are automatically protected by the Berne Convention and “Each of the Berne Union’s 168 member countries is required to protect works from other countries to the same level of works originating in its own country” (Pedley 2015, 4). Nevertheless, although there is a Berne Convention, which originates from the 1880s, (an international treaty that the United States did not sign until nearly a hundred years later), there are still differences in copyright law and what you can do with it in different countries, though a lot of aspects remain the same around the world.
What is important to understand about British copyright law?
According to the back cover, “The UK’s copyright legislation has been referred to as the longest, most confusing and hardest to navigate in the world.” I agree with Pedley. The reason why British copyright law is so overwhelming is in part to do with with efforts to smooth out the variety of different legal systems that the UK has to juggle. To start, the UK is a common law country while the rest of the EU tends to be civil law. There are also differing conceptions of copyright within the EU. For example, some EU countries consider certain works as more than just property (the closest thing we have here are the special rights for the creators of paintings and other visual art work under the Visual Rights Act of 1990, which you might have heard about from the ongoing Fearless Girl controversy). All of this smoothing of legal system differences was done in order to have a Single Market, which started with the European Communities and then moved to the European Union. Under British law, the order of which decisions to listen to on legal matters such as copyright is EU case law, then British case law, and then finally British law. Therefore this book is chock full of lots of interesting cases from the EU, UK and even from the Commonwealth!
Comparing UK and US Copyright Law: some similarities and differences
- American and British copyright law are both based around common law, which can be complex, and confusing
- Software is considered to be a literary work
- Librarians, along with archivists and museum curators, have special rights in their role in preserving cultural heritage and making it accessible all for the greater good of society
- The UK has “Fair dealing” as opposed to the United States’ “Fair Use”; though, they are applied in different ways (“Fair Dealing vs Fair Use, n.d.).
- In the UK there are more types of licensing agreements, including those for government created works, while in the US government created works are usually in the public domain
- From my understanding, maps are considered art in the UK, with the rights that come with that — I imagine a map library is a different experience in the UK!
To learn more take a look at this book!
Disclaimer: This is a blog post and is not legal advice. Neither the author of this post nor the author of the book being reviewed are lawyers.