In the UK copyright is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988, although this has been significantly amended to conform to the requirements of EU directives. As the UK’s National Library, the British Library’s services are governed by this legislation.
Is the British Library able to provide copies of items to its users?
Yes, there are three ways in which the British Library may copy items:
- The item is out of copyright.
- Under a licence with the rights owners, either directly or through licensing agencies such as the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) or the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC).
- Under the exceptions in law such as fair dealing; however there are limitations on how these copies can be used.
What are fair dealing and library privilege?
If a copy is made directly by a user for one of the permitted purposes in UK copyright law, it is known as fair dealing. There is no precise definition in law but it essentially allows limited copying provided it is ‘fair’. The amount that may be copied is normally interpreted as being no more than 5% or one chapter of a book or one article from a single issue of a journal provided it is for research, for a noncommercial purpose or private study. Known as library privilege, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act allows certain prescribed libraries and archives to make a single copy for non-commercial research or private study on behalf of its users. The British Library can provide a copy for this purpose either on site in Reading Rooms or remotely using the Document Supply services providing the user signs a declaration form stating they are adhering to copyright regulations. Remote users must order through a third party library, such as a public or university library, who collect and keep the signed declaration forms. If a copy is required for a commercial purpose or the user cannot comply with the copyright restrictions then a licensed copy must be made, and a copyright fee is then payable.
How much are copyright fees and who receives them?
The copyright fees are publication specific and set by the rights holders (usually the publisher). Depending on the terms of the different licences the fees are either paid directly to the publisher or to an agency such as the CLA. In the year 2009 the British Library collected and distributed over £4.5 million in copyright payments on behalf of the rights holders.
Do British Library users know what they can do with their copies?
All registered British Library users sign terms and conditions dictating the usage of any copies supplied. All public copy machines at the Library have guidelines so that users are aware of the law.
Where can I find more information?
Further information about the CLA can be found on their website.