22:3 (2007:09) 22nd Conference (2007): Tactics Session: Alternatives to Licensing of E-Resources

September 5, 2007 at 11:22 am | Posted in Conference Reports, Tactics Sessions | Leave a comment


Alternatives to Licensing of E-Resources
Zachary Rolnik, Now Publishers; Selden Durgom Lamoureux, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Reported by Kyle Winward

Zachary Rolnik began the session speaking about the context of licensing, and how an increasing acquisition in digital content during the 1990s led to a shift in emphasis from copyright law to contract law for licensing.  The consequences have been higher costs, bottlenecks in the ordering process, access being delayed or never initiated, and large publishers, with large resources, being favored over small publishers.  The cumulative effect is that library patrons are not well served, library financial resources are not maximized, and small publishers are frequently under-represented in many libraries’ online collections.

Rolnik next spoke about the challenges for small publishers in creating licenses, including the cost of creating a license, attorney fees, and that three quarters of all licenses require some revision.  Rolnik added that he has never responded negatively to requests to change terms, but that the process results in a minimum delay of weeks and sometimes several months.

Selden Durgom Lamoureux followed with information concerning previous presentations on the problems of licensing at the 2005 Charleston Conference and other conferences – the response was enthusiastic for licensing alternatives.  At the Charleston Conference, Oliver Pesch (EBSCO) spoke with Lamoureux, and this conversation inspired a working group of librarians and publishers, which formed the NISO Shared E-Resource Understanding (SERU) Working Group.

The first step the working group took was to divide a license into three parts: contract (legal) boilerplate, business terms, and the remainder of the license.  The next step was discarding the contract boilerplate, moving the business terms to a purchase order, and focusing on the remaining content.  There was a general consensus about what constitutes a site, who is a user, what are appropriate and inappropriate use, confidentiality and privacy, online performance and service, and archival and perpetual access.

Rolnik followed with the reasons why a new model could work, including the significant and shared experience of publishers and librarians with e-resource licensing, and a high level of trust based on the amicable resolution of problems.  For example, there have been fewer than five court cases between publishers and libraries for license violations in the past few years, and there is strong motivation to find a licensing alternative.

Lamoureux provided more details on SERU, and emphasized that it is a mutual understanding between libraries and publishers in which they forego a license agreement and instead rely on SERU and copyright law.  SERU is not a replacement for all license and contract agreements, nor is it a standard license or license of adhesion.  SERU’s next steps include a Draft Recommended Practice for Trial Use (version 0.9), a registry of participants, and a formal NISO review process in 2008.  The speakers encouraged interested parties to register on the SERU website – the registration form isn’t currently online but should be soon.  A very interactive and informative round of questions and answers followed.


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