Vendor perspective handout

Vendor perspective handout

ALA Annual 2018 New Orleans
ACRL European Studies Section Germanist and Romance Discussion Groups
June 24, 2018
Foreign-language Ebook Issues from the Vendor Perspective

Licensing issues (both on the publishers’ and libraries’ side)

Drafting a License and balancing Licensor’s (Publisher/Aggregator) and Licensee’s (Library) protection is no easy task, due to the different and sometimes conflicting expectations of the parties involved. One of the difficulties a content aggregator faces when dealing with Licensing issues is the fact that Publishers are not always fully aware of the actual usage of their publications in a scholarly environment so their perceptions about the degree of protection their resources need can be altered by a misconception. This is particularly true when we speak of Social Sciences and Humanities publications and, even more, of non-English publications.
Libraries, on the other hand, are often trying to expand the scope of their rights, and this may include archiving, long-term access, off-premises access and interlibrary loan, just to name a few.

Long term preservation of digital resources and local hosting has become an integral part of many Licensing negotiations. To make things even more complicated is the fact that the ownership of the preservation task is often unclear (Publisher, Library, or even Aggregator?).
Undoubtedly there would be no digital preservation initiatives without publishers’ participation. For example, Casalini acts as a ‘facilitator’ to connect Publishers from the Mediterranean area and Clockss and Portico, the most commonly used repositories. Publishers are now starting to realize how important participating in long term preservation initiatives is and we’re seeing an increasing commitment by them.

Digital Rights Management and the growing complexity of usage permissions.

At the core of the protection of intellectual property rights is a long and sometimes complicated history of unstable balance between the protection of private rights (author’s/publisher’s) and the social benefit of information/knowledge diffusion. The advent of DRM technologies has added another element to the equation, the “user experience”. The evolution of DRM technologies has been staggering in the past decade and Publishers now have an array of protection tools that allow them to fine-tune the protection of their content (number of concurrent users, number of prints allowed, copy/paste, annotations, etc.). However, this degree of complexity affects in many ways the user’s experience and often creates a lot of confusion.

Another interesting point is to see how DRM is regarded differently by a Publisher, selling their content on their own platform and by an Aggregator, selling content by a multitude of different Publishers.

Differences between Anglo-American and Mediterranean publishing industry: the language factor.

Over the past decades we witnessed an increasing dominance of English language in scholarly publishing worldwide and this phenomenon is often referred to as an unavoidable process, thus resulting in a marginalization of other languages, not only in the STEM area but also in the Humanities and Social Sciences. In many cases being published in a “non English”
language is regarded as a sign of lack of internationality.
We can outline some common trends in the publishing in the Mediterranean

  • Dominance of the Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Large number of medium to small and very small publishers
  • With declining average prices and print runs in this context, one of the key issues is the visibility/discoverability of the content. Making the content highly discoverable is truly crucial:
    as a matter of fact, the harder the information is to find, the less relevant it becomes, and for ‘minor’ languages as Italian, Spanish and Portuguese that’s a risk publishers (and the entire cultural industry at large) can’t afford.

National laws and regulations and the ‘elusive’ notion of Fair Use.

In its general sense, a “fair” use is any use of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon or criticize a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an infringement. But what is a “transformative” use? Despite the millions of dollars spent in legal fees in order to define the notion of transformative use, this definition may still seem ambiguous or vague. We must accept that there are no “fixed-in-stone” rules, only general guidelines and – more importantly – court decisions. The success of any law protecting the copyright depends largely on what the courts make of it.

In the UK the doctrine of fair use (Fair dealing) provides an exception to United Kingdom copyright law, in cases where the copyright infringement is for the purposes of non-commercial research or study, criticism or review, or for the reporting of current events. It is a narrower notion than the North American Fair Use, and requires the infringer to show not only that their copying falls into one of the three fair dealing categories, but also that it is “fair” and, in some cases, that it contains sufficient acknowledgement for the original author.
In Canada, to qualify under the fair dealing exception, the dealing must be for a purpose enumerated in the Copyright Act of Canada (research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism or review and news reporting), and the dealing must considered fair as per the criteria established by the Supreme Court of Canada. Here, again, the role of courts is essential.

COUNTER statistics for Humanities and foreign languages – what is the value of that?

The current budgetary climate is forcing libraries to be more selective about e-resources and very often renewal or cancellation decisions depend on the context in which the decision is being made (need for budget cuts) and on the usage of the resources.

Sometimes Libraries – and one could say modern societies at large – are obsessed with metrics. However in looking at usage statistics there should be always a careful “interpretation” of the data. The library’s collection development policies and the language are key factors (an Italian or French journal may not have the same “numbers” as an Anglo-American one, and also a Classical Philology e-book may be downloaded only once in a while but that does not affect its “relevance” to the given field of study).

Cold figures don’t tell the whole story. There are other issues which might have an impact on the reliability of the usage data, such as:

  • How effectively has the resource been promoted within the library?
  • Has training and/or documentation been provided to users to support effective use of the resource?
  • What other factors might have an impact on the reliability of usage data?

Submitted by Andrea Ferro, Casalini