The Many Faces of the Public Domain
Edited by Charlotte Waelde and Hector MacQueen
Chapter 8: The Public Domain and the Librarian
Toby Bainton 1 Introduction The librarian’s mission is to help people find the information they need. This goal remains valid even if the individual library users are unsure what their information needs really are. Very often librarians pursue this mission despite their comparative lack of expertise in the library user’s chosen topic. Increasingly the librarian is intent on helping library users who may not have entered a building called a library but are nevertheless using materials supplied, through the intervention of librarians, to their desktop. 2 The work of the librarian The concept of the public domain becomes important as soon as the requisite information has been found. Library-based information is invariably recorded information, traditionally in printed form but nowadays very often in digital formats. As such it is likely to be subject to copyright or other intellectual property rights. These rights are steadily increasing in extent, either through prolongation of term or through the establishment of new rights. In the UK the term of copyright was extended in 1995 from 50 to 70 years by the Duration of Copyright and Rights in Performances Regulations and an example of a new right is the database right, introduced in 1997 by the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations. Intellectual property rights are important for every library user since they may well restrict how the information they have discovered may be used. Only material in the public domain may safely be used by library users with complete freedom. It follows that, to...
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