NLW Digitisation Proposals
The National Library of Wales’ Response
Andrew Green’s letter as reprinted from the Western Mail, 27 March 2008
It is disappointing to see Peter Finch using his column (15 March) to continue his attack on the ’Welsh Journals Online’ digitisation project.
WJO is run by the National Library of Wales on behalf of all the higher education institutions of Wales. It aims to give free public access online to the contents of the key periodicals relating to Wales published since 1900. It has the backing of the Welsh Assembly Government, and will bring huge benefits, potentially to every person in Wales. In effect it will place the equivalent of a large library in every home and every school in the country.
Peter knows, because we have had several meetings with him, that the project is not ’at war’ with those literary authors who refuse to take part in the scheme. No one is forcing authors to take part. There is no threat to their copyright. We seek at all times the permission of the publisher and author before inclusion. Anyone who does not wish to take part can choose not to do so. It is true that the project cannot offer payment, and Peter knows that. But publishers benefit immensely from having their output translated into digital form, and authors gain far more from higher visibility for that part of their work that appears in periodicals than any conceivable financial reward. (All this is explained in detail in my letters on Literature Wales' website.)
99.5% of the authors we have approached have been happy to work with WJO. The project is overwhelmingly in the public interest - and in authors’ interests. It is not ’barbarian’, as Peter suggests, to support the idea ’let’s make it free forever’: that has been the basic purpose of all public libraries for over 150 years, and it is perfectly consistent with respecting the law of copyright.
Letter from Andrew Green, 24 January 2008:
The National Library of Wales and the effect of the Welsh Journals Online project on authors and publishers
On 11 January 2008 representatives of Academi, the Welsh Books Council and the National Library of Wales held a friendly and positive discussion of the broader issues raised by the Welsh Journals Online project. It was agreed that it would be helpful if the National Library clarified the rationale of the project and the implications for the future.
In 2006 the Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum (WHELF) received funding from the Joint Information Systems Committee of the higher education funding bodies in the UK (JISC) and the Welsh Assembly Government for a project now entitled ‘Welsh Journals Online’. The members of WHELF and the National Library of Wales, which is managing the project, also made contributions in kind. The project runs from January 2007 to March 2009 and aims to digitise and mount on the web some 600,000 pages from journals relating to Wales.
The content will include up to 90 English and Welsh titles, ranging from academic and historical society publications to literary, cultural and popular magazines. Most will be 20th century, although some 19th century material is included for the older titles, and recent material (up to 2005) will be included depending on the ‘embargo period’ agreed with the publishers.
The website will be available to users free and without registration. Re-use of the material may be restricted by conditions agreed with the publishers. Material for which consent has been refused will appear blanked out with a note explaining its absence.
It is recognised that the majority of the material is still protected by copyright and the project has been framed with this in mind. In the course of the debate that the project has provoked some misconceptions have arisen, and we would like to set out some of the background to clarify the issues.
2 Consultation and project planning
When the project proposal was being drafted in response to JISC’s call for applications, WHELF identified the National Library’s 19th and 20th century journal holdings as its most-used printed material. Two proposals were submitted, of which JISC selected the 20th century project because of the likely higher demand from students (it also recognised the likely value of the project to learners outside higher education). The key difference between the projects was that the 20th century material was assumed to be covered by extant copyright (lasting for 70 years after the creator’s death).
In July 2006, before submitting the final proposal on behalf of WHELF, the Library consulted a wide range of bodies including Academi, the Welsh Books Council, CAWCS, CREW, WJEC, NIACE, and as many publishers as possible (about 56), to establish whether the project would be beneficial to them. The response was almost unanimously positive, with only one title refusing, in principle, to take part. None of the respondents noted that some authors might refuse permission unless provision was made for payment, although the Library was aware that this was a possibility.
The Library then had to weigh up how to devise a project that was cost-effective, workable, and representative. It concluded that it would be better to aim for as broad a coverage as possible by including only the material for which no fee was payable, rather than restrict the scope to a smaller number of titles, paying fees where needed. This was a conscious decision (right or wrong): it is untrue that the Library had not considered the question in advance.
The project was approved in principle in November 2006 and in January 2007 the team was appointed. The first step it took was to contact the publishers of titles asking them to consider inclusion in the project, and all the publishers were invited to a seminar, held on 1 March 2007, providing information about the project and its implications. Permission of the publishers was an essential requirement for inclusion in the project, and therefore these were approached first. Publishers, having agreed in principle to be included, have since been contacting their copyright holders asking for permission for individual contributions to appear on the web. Consulting the contributors before knowing whether the title wished to be included in the project could have resulted in a great deal of wasted effort. So far, of the 90 titles approached only three publishers (responsible for five titles) have refused permission. The results of the consultation have therefore been borne out.
3 The permission process
Although authors (and other copyright holders) may think of their copyright holdings as a monolithic entity, there are practical reasons why the Library has chosen to treat the content of each title separately: the terms of publication agreements between publisher and author will vary between titles, and what records exists will be held by the publisher.
The project is proceeding on the basis of a four-stage process:
- Agreement is reached with the publisher for a title to be included in principle.
- The publisher takes reasonable steps to contact as many of its copyright holders as it can. This may include printing news items in the publication, discussion at AGMs, and the mailing of forms to contributors. The project team has assisted with the mailing work for titles which are unable to do it themselves, by mailing, collating responses, and researching current addresses. A standard permission form covers all of a copyright holder’s material in a publication, for which all, some, or none may be granted permission.
- The publisher then signs a licence agreement which specifies the material to be included and excluded. For some titles this will be ‘opt-in’ (only that material for which permission has been explicitly granted will be included - typically titles which pay their contributors), and for other titles this will be ‘opt out’ (all material not explicitly refused permission will be included). The choice of approach is made by the publisher, based on their knowledge of their contributors’ attitude and on the level of response. For most titles permission is granted for 99% or more of the content.
- The material is mounted on the website, with terms and conditions for users covering whether commercial re-use is allowed.
- If copyright holders come forward who have not been consulted for whatever reason and wish their contributions to be removed from the website, they will be taken down as soon as possible. The Library recognises that it will not have been possible to contact all copyright holders, particularly where they are not the original creators.
4 Effects on publishers
Most publishers have taken the view that the project will be beneficial to their interests as long as the embargo period protects the demand for their physical printed copies. They are keen to see the exposure of their archive content as a way of raising the profile of their publication for a new worldwide audience. The inclusion of a link from the website to the publisher’s subscription page may lead to an increase in sales. Publishers will receive digital copies of the contents of their titles. As noted above, very few publishers have refused.
5 Effects on authors
Much of the debate about the project has started from the assumption that the Library is ignoring copyright and will proceed without permission. Neither is correct. No transfer of copyright is being sought: a licence is being sought. Where copyright holders do not wish their material to appear on the website, it will not. It is up to each holder to decide whether they wish to accept the proposal, on the basis of no fee being payable; if they decide not, their decision will be respected.
6 The future
The wider question of digital rights for writers is one where there are many current developments feeding into a global debate which will probably have international outcomes. The Library’s core role is in collecting and giving access to the cultures of Wales; it sees the project emphatically as part of that role. The question of the professionalising of writing in Wales, and the proper recompense for digital rights, falls outside the remit of its Charter, although the Library is keen to provide authors with what support it can in promoting their work in general.
National Library of Wales
24 January 2008
Letter from Andrew Green, 22 October 2007:
‘Welsh Journals Online’ and Academi
Thank you for your letter of 10 October.
I’m glad that Academi welcomes the ‘Welsh Journals Online’ project, which we see as part of our strategy to open up and promote access to the Library’s holdings. We are sure it will act as a showcase for Welsh writing, raising its status on a global stage.
Our previous discussions with Literature Wales have been focused on Taliesin. As a publisher and promoter of literature you will of course be aware of the benefits this project offers: about £20,000 of digitisation and OCR (on project costs, more than that at a commercial rate), a full set of electronic back-files for you, and perpetual hosting of the site. Of course it is up to Literature Wales, in the light of its own strategic aims, to grant or withhold consent for Taliesin to be included in the project.
The points raised at your AGM are more general in nature, and reflect the possible impact of the project on the interests of Literature Wales members, who can be taken to speak on behalf of some of the writers represented in the journal content. (It is a shame that the points had not been presented in response to the initial survey of publishers undertaken during the summer of 2006, or at the seminar held earlier this year.)
1 Permissions from authors / copyright-holders
From the outset we resolved to reach an agreement with publishers who would have the contacts, information, and experience of working with their copyright holders, that they would seek their consent. None of the publishers we consulted expressed major concerns about the amount of work this would involve them in, although it has since emerged that the completeness and currency of many publishers’ records are such that manual research is required. Since the scope of the project runs back to 1900, much of this research is essentially a historical exercise; the majority of authors involved are dead. However, the project team has offered practical assistance to the publishers who found this onerous, by offering a list of any bibliographic information that may be available that might assist in identifying authors. It is preparing, posting and collating the results of the letters sent out to those authors whose details it receives from the publisher. We are therefore prepared to do much of the work involved with this process, but the responsibility must ultimately lie with the publisher.
Since the publishers will usually also hold part of the copyright of the content in question, they must form a part of any agreement that is reached. The Library follows the principle that no digitisation is undertaken without a formal warrant from the publisher (it would do so in any case, but this is also a requirement of the JISC funding).  This, in terms of the AGM proposition, inclusion in the project is ‘opt-in’ at the level of the periodical title.
The extent to which it is practicable for a publisher to contact all their copyright holders will depend on a number of factors. Some will successfully contact a much higher proportion than others. We consider that the combination of publishers obtaining prior consent where practicable, and a take-down policy to remove material, should copyright holders come forward and request it after the material is made live, is a reasonable compromise that will balance the interests of copyright holders and those who would benefit from access to the material. Our experience has been that 99% of copyright holders are happy to grant consent; the proportion of copyright holders who have not been contacted and would refuse is therefore very small; to move to an ‘opt-in’ at article level for the benefit of this small group would, in our opinion, have a negative effect on this 99% who are anxious for as much material as possible to be included.
We recognise that Academi's particular concerns relate to contemporary writers who actively manage their copyrights. It may well be that publishers in this area would wish to follow an opt-in policy in granting permission for digitisation, but this would not be appropriate for many of the other titles.
2 Payments to copyright holders
The project budget contains no element to cover payments to copyright holders, and the Library is committed to JISC to provide the target level of content based on the resources available.
When the project proposal was being drawn up, the Library consulted publishers about how copyright holders would be likely to respond. We were advised that only a small proportion of holders mentioned payment as an issue, and these often intimated that they would refuse consent in any case since they did not wish their work to appear on the Web. We therefore saw the project as one providing access to the vast majority of content, for which payment was not required. We would see this a corollary to the principle that the material should be made available free, not as a subscription service.
The specific licence we are seeking need not diminish the commercial value of the copyright, since use can be restricted to non-commercial purposes. The only loss to the holder is therefore that no payment is made for use in the project.
It is up to each copyright holder to decide whether they wish their material to be included; we recognise fully the reasons for some to refuse.
Many thanks for drawing the views of the members of Academi at the AGM to our attention. I hope you find this explanation informative and useful. If you would like to publish this letter on Literature Wales' website I should be happy for you to do so, as long as you do so in its entirety. If you wished, we should also be happy to contribute to the interesting discussion on this issue on the website, if only to allay fears and correct misconceptions.
If you would like further discussions you would also be most welcome to visit the Library.
With best wishes
Andrew M W Green
 There are a small number of ‘orphaned works’ which form a special case which the Library is currently considering Andrew Green
National Library of Wales