As a former lecturer and researcher in Higher Education, I recognise the convenience and practicality of selective copying to those engaged in the dissemination of materials for learning or informational purposes. The ability to copy specific extracts from a work produces huge benefits to user communities – educational, business or public sector. Firstly, fewer originals need to be purchased. Secondly, users can pinpoint extracts relevant to particular topics or themes. Thirdly, extracts can be joined with others from related titles to form a course-pack or some other collection of topic-specific materials. Finally, the user still has the benefit of the original to make further copies for another occasion.
In the United Kingdom these benefits are available at very reasonable rates. For little more than the cost per capita of a bottle of wine from the university shop, a university can buy a photocopying licence for each member of its community. For the price of a hardback management book per capita, a business organisation can licence all its professional employees. These are small prices for such important benefits.
Yet one of the least satisfactory aspects of being an academic author is the reluctance of the community at large to pay these modest fees for copying extracts from one’s work. Academic Institutions, research organisations and the information services of large companies need only buy the minimum number of originals for their needs, and may then exploit the author’s work by copying selected extracts for dissemination to their users. As a textbook author myself, I would prefer people not copy extracts from my books, but to buy the originals. That is how I and my publisher get the fairest financial reward.
Nevertheless, selective copying is greatly sought after in the academic and business worlds, and rightsholders should not stand in the way of such use. However, users must recognise that this benefit would not be available if the book or article had not been written in the first place. Even textbook writing, eclectic as it is, cannot be based on mere soundbites, but is about drawing together ideas, facts, opinions and conclusions and presenting them as a coherent whole. This is where the writer’s investment comes in. From personal experience, I know that writing an academic work is a lengthy and painstaking process, and usually carried out in one’s own time. No wonder so many academic writers refer in their preface to the pressures on family life caused by their writing! Completing up all this prior effort comes the publisher, who takes on the risk of producing and disseminating the book or article with the reasonable expectation of a satisfactory financial return.
It is only fair that those concerned in this fundamental service to the community should receive proper payment for their efforts. Collective licensing provides framework within which copying can be controlled and paid for. Users do not have to seek clearances from individual publishers or authors but can channel their requests through a collecting society, which will handle the financial transactions on their behalf. Authors and publishers can be assured of receiving fees from the collecting body.
User communities must recognise that fair remuneration must be paid for the copying of copyright material. Without real prospect of arrangements to limit copying and ensure financial rewards, neither authors nor publishers are going to be prepared to meet society’s learning and informational needs on the scale that is needed. The community as a whole must face up to its responsibilities to those who contribute to the nation’s intellectual capital.
About the Author
Gerald Cole was an author-director of the CLA. He worked and taught in a variety of large and small organisations in the public and private sectors, as well as authored management textbooks that include Management Theory and Practice.
This article was originally published in CLArion in Winter 2000. CLArion used the be CLA’s printed newsletter that was published four times a year.