Library not fine
THE British Library announced plans recently to put scans of newspapers online. The papers certainly do need to be scanned, since many are crumbling into dust. But what of the effects on writers and photographers of putting their work online for all to copy? What, for that matter, of the effects on the high principles of librarianship of a public library function being contracted to a private company - in this case Brightsolid, the oddly-named subsidiary of publisher D C Thomson and owner of blast-from-the-recent-past Friends Reunited and of genesreunited.co.uk?
The BL announced that:
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. This copyright material will, with the express permission of the publishers, be made available via the online resource - providing fuller coverage for users and a much-needed revenue stream for the rightsholders.
But, firstly, it's not impossible that the 16-year-old cub reporter of 1910 lived to, say, 1990, putting their work in copyright until 2060. And, secondly, what's this about the publishers being the rightsholders? What about the freelances - quite apart from the rights that other journalists may have under pre-1956 copyright law?
The NUJ is organising a series of meetings with interested parties to look for answers and solutions. More later.