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Government needs more costs information for online content storage plans

UPDATED: The Government needs more evidence on how much it will cost libraries to archive online content before putting regulations in place to ensure that they have access to the material, it has said.12 Apr 2011

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) had consulted with publishers and legal deposit libraries (LDLs) over plans for libraries to have access to online, as well as printed, content.

It had proposed creating regulations under the Legal Deposit Libraries Act to give libraries access to online material. Under the Act publishers must send a free copy of their work to the British Library and to any other LDL that requests it.

The British Library, the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales, the university libraries of Oxford and Cambridge, and Trinity College Dublin make up the Government's list of LDLs.

Before it can order the making available of content to libraries the Government must be sure that the process will not incur unreasonable costs for publishers or libraries, it has said.

"One of the key objectives of the consultation was to try and clarify the costs to business of the Regulations as drafted," said its response to the consultation. "We needed this information to meet the test in the Legal Deposit Act 2003 that the cost of deposit to publishers should not be disproportionate to the public benefit of deposit. Unfortunately we were not able to get this information."

"In the light of the overall responses, and the lack of evidence from both libraries and publishers to support the case that the Regulations do not impose a disproportionate burden, we do not believe that it is viable to go forward with the Regulations as currently drafted unless we can find evidence of proportionality," said the response.

The Government will work with libraries and publishers to get a better idea of costs, it said.

"The Government is committed to delivering Regulations that cover non-print content and therefore propose to develop the draft Regulations to include only off-line content, and on-line content that can be obtained through a harvesting process. We would also look to include on-line content that is substantially the same as a printed work, removing the need to deposit print and reducing the costs to the publishing Sector," said the response.

The Government said that it would produce new draft regulations outlining how content produced by UK publishers on the internet should be stored. Offline content, such as CDs and DVDs will also be included in the new plans.

The British Library said in its consultation response (29-page / 160KB PDF) that new regulations should address how access to content would be regulated after copyright has expired; and whether a sunset clause that would end the legislation after a period would be appropriate.

Opening up content stored behind pay-walls to free access, making the works available on or near the date of publication and making it accessible outside of LDL premises would have a "substantial" negative impact commercially for newspaper groups, the Newspaper Licensing Agency said in its consultation reply (6-page / 386KB PDF).

Online replicas of printed works will replace the paper versions in the archive, cutting the cost to the publishing sector, under the new draft regulations, the Government said.

Plans to harmonise software systems used by the LDLs to enable information to be shared digitally could also be considered.

Editor's note, 12/04/2011: This story has been changed to reflect the fact that the Government does not propose to make a distinction between paid-for and non paid-for content in its plans for library storage of material, as we previously reported. We apologise for the error.