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Friday, 21st May 2010

Give us a Break! James Murdoch Not Very Happy About the British Library Newspaper Digitization Project

Earlier this week we posted about a "just announced" 10 year project from the British Library to digitize 40+ million newspaper pages.

From the Official Announcement:

Digitised material will include extensive coverage of local, regional and national press across three and a half centuries. It will focus on specific geographic areas, along with periods such as the census years between 1841 and 1911.

Regarding copyright issues it goes on to say:

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.

Now, James Murdoch (Rupert's son) and CEO of News. Corp said that he is not very pleased or as The Guardian puts it, he's "upset" with the idea.

Why?

From The Guardian

James Murdoch has attacked plans by the British Library to digitise the national newspaper collection, warning that public bodies should not decide how copyrighted material is exploited for commercial gain. Subsidies to make up for the damage it has inflicted."

[Clip]

In front of an audience that included his father Rupert, the chief executive of News International Rebekah Brooks and Sun editor Dominic Mohan, Murdoch added: "The case of the British Library goes even further. Just yesterday, the library announced the digitisation of their newspaper archive originally given to them by publishers as a matter of legal obligation.

"This is not simply being done for posterity, nor to make free access for library users easier, but also for commercial gain via a paid for website. The move is strongly opposed by major publishers. If it goes ahead, free content would not only be a justification for more funding, but actually become a source of funds for a public body."

Well, perhaps Mr. Murdoch should have read the complete news release. As we have noted above, the British Library is only going to digitise out-of-copyright materials pre-1900 unless, let's repeat the following sentences from just a paragraph or two ago:

...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.

That seems very clear to us. We really don't no what else the British Library could have said unless they were NOT even going to ATTEMPT to digitise the post-1900 material.

Also, the database would be available for free to, "users on-site at the British Library."

Finally, if Mr. Murdoch is also upset about the pre-1900 out-of-copyright material and newspaper digitisation then why hasn't he said anything until now?

He had several years to object to the already available British Newspapers Online 1800-1900. This project is a partnership between the British Library and Gale, a part of Cengage Learning and provides online access to more than 2 million digitized pages in the public version of the database for a fee, (6.99 pounds for 24 hours is one price plan). Even more content is available to academic institutions. Btw, the public version of the site has been available since June, 2009.

Perhaps Mr. Murdoch needs (or have "his people" do a bit more research. Perhaps by obtaining primary document(s), summaries, or even reaching out and making a phone call or sending an email to those in the know.

See Also: Why James Murdoch was wrong to attack the British Library by Robert Greenslade (The Guardian)

What has the British Library done to upset James Murdoch? The answer: its job.

In a speech last night, the News International chief took the library to task for providing access to digital material. He began:

Take the current controversy over the library's intention to provide unrestricted access to digital material.

What controversy? There is no controversy as far as the library, the public, thousands of academics and hundreds of working journalists - the seekers after knowledge - are concerned.

See Also: A Bit More at the Conclusion of this paidContent:UK Post

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