What’s the deal with copyright?!

So back to university after Christmas and with it some new and exciting modules. Looking at LAPIS or to use the full title Libraries and Publishing in an Information Society is definitely a module of particular interest to me. I’ve been fortunate the past two years to work in an Information Centre that is both a publisher as well as a library so I get to see two sides of the same coin you could say. We have the continuous negotiation of our CLA license every year (try arguing about the legal ramifications of that with a finance director who only looks at the cost!) at the same time as receiving our publishing royalties which in fact come from the very same license we’re paying for in the library. Talk about conflicting interests.

The main point I took away from the first session was the fact that because culture, technology and understanding are constantly changing so does the way we disseminate information. Publishing itself has changed, it is no longer insular and selective because now everyone can do it. Anyone can now become a publisher, we do it without even thinking through blogs, Twitter and even the ability to add our own writings on to the kindle store through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing for anyone to download (my new favourite series of books is by an author who did just that, couldn’t get a deal with a publisher so published it himself….he found so much success there are plans for the series to be made into a film).

I think the reason this appealed so much is because when looking at what an Information Society is I’m very much for the idea of Manuel Castell’s idea of a Socio-cultural information society – in the Western world at least we all seem to have a social account of some sort which we use to spread our thoughts (granted sometimes it might be what I had for dinner) to anyone who we wish to see it or in some cases for anyone in the public to see it. That is publishing!

There is so much power in web 2.0 from an informational point without much comprehension. Before as a company we focused primarily on getting information out in bound books but now we have a successful blog that creates discussion within our industry, now we have topic guides that we launch off our Twitter account as free downloads, we’re just about to  launch our main annual publication as an interactive app with plans for more app based guides. The way we deliver information has changed because the way we engage with each other has changed. I love that concept because it puts people back at the heart of publishing, it isn’t necessarily about the information being presented it’s about the users of the information and the best form of delivery. 

One other point that came up in the session that stuck with me because it’s a bug bearer for me at work is who owns content? I mean i’m publishing this blog and it’s under my name so therefore it’s mine. We publish books that come from ideas discussed at steering groups then

written by our staff or guest authors but sponsored by other companies. Who on earth owns that content? Well we argue that we do as we own the copyright to that publication, but how on earth is that decided? Arguably it should be the author or the idea creator as they produced the content, it was their effort and research that enabled something to be published so why shouldn’t it be theirs? But nope, the publisher paid for the work to be done so economically it’s theirs. It doesn’t help that the copyright license is split between the PLS (Publishing Licensing Society) and the ALCS (Authoring Licensing and Collecting Society)…who owns what?! Why have I got such a headache trying to figure out who to contact about using content?!

So going back to one of my earlier points, I love the idea of publishing no longer being the traditional definition and us facing this new information evolution or revolution even. It means that authors and idea creators get their thoughts out there without prejudice or the money strings holding us back. While it may make copyright and ownership more confusing as well as control of our ideas somewhat impossible it does mean that information at least gets out there without restriction. I’m all for more information and even more supportive of free information….not sure if that is the librarian in me or just the socialist?

Granted I do have to say the downside of information without restriction or editorial is we do end up with some disturbing things being published on the web.



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