While some have been thinking about issues around Controlled Digital Lending for many years, there is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way we view the digital. The shutting of university buildings suddenly cut off access to physical copies for a prolonged period of time (most notably in the UK during our first lock-down last year). This lack of physical access shone a powerful spotlight on the compromises that we had been living with in terms of the balance between physical and electronic texts. Pre-pandemic we had rather muddled-through, aware of the problems caused by unsatisfactory and unaffordable business models and terms and conditions that limited use and reuse, but not seeing a clear way through.
As already noted, lending has been at the heart of what libraries do for centuries now. Controlled Physical Lending of materials is a key activity of (most) RLUK members and of the wider HE and public sectors. Digital Lending needs to takes its place alongside Physical Lending and we need to aim for the time where we speak only of ‘lending’.
So, it was hugely encouraging that so many people come together at the recent event to discuss CDL and begin to identify the next steps that we need to take in the UK to move this forward.
Dr Emily Hudson from King’s, one of the speakers at the recent event, has written very clearly on whether we can look to CDL as a reasonable activity under UK law or if we need to push for either greater clarity or greater rights. The view of Dr Hudson and her co-author, Paul Wragg, is that there is sufficient leeway in current exceptions in UK copyright law to allow CDL for education purposes and, with some rights stacking, for research.
The digital offers so many opportunities to libraries and benefits to the people that they serve. We need to ensure we take the opportunity of CDL and realise those benefits – not allow our activities to become narrowed as a result of a format shift and out-of-date copyright frameworks.
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