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JILT 1998 (2) - Brian Lantz

Graham P. Cornish's

Copyright: interpreting the law for libraries, archives and information services (2nd ed.)

Library Association Publishing, 1997, £19.95
189pp, ISBN 1-85604-168-9

Reviewed by
Brian Lantz
University of Central England
Brian.Lantz@uce.ac.uk

In keeping with UCE's proactive approach to measuring most things, I undertook two experiments to judge the desirability of this book. Experiment 1: I left Graham's bright yellow book on the dashboard of my car in one of Birmingham's more infamous car parks for three hours while attending a meeting in town. The book was still there when I returned though my radio had been stolen. Conclusion: the average Midland's drug addict or car thief does not see a ready cash market for this book. Experiment 2: I left the book in the library coffee room one morning and returned 10 minutes later. The book was gone. Conclusion: the average librarian has a strong interest in the subject matter of this book.

I have now retrieved the book along with a wide range of positive comments from several library staff. The book is clearly written, providing plain language explanations of many aspects of UK copyright law. It attempts to cover real situations facing library staff from all types of UK libraries. As such this book is an especially practical guide to the subject. Lecturers in my institution are continuously trying to find some scheme to avoid the full consequences of copyright law. With one exception, these 'scams' are dealt with clearly, permitting staff approached with dubious queries to give an informed reply. [The exception is that of short loan collections being substitutes for course packs – an issue resolved, or as some would say compounded, by the recent CLA-CVCP agreement.]

Copyright is set out in a clear question and answer style that was broadly praised by our library staff but which I found a bit irritating. Usefully, Graham chose to avoid 'see also' references, thus causing a certain amount of repetition between sections. This is most useful to those delving into a topic for a clear formulation of the specific issues. There are often no definitive answers to copyright questions. In these cases, guidance is given to the reader. The advice is sound, but as one would hope, on the conservative side.

Graham makes two assertions for his book:

'it is written by a librarian trying to understand the law, not a lawyer trying to understand libraries'

'The author asserts his right … under the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988 … [to any] sound recordings or films made of, or based on, his work.'

The former is a fundamental reason why this is so useful a book for librarians to have ready on their shelves. Any media mogul wishing to make a film of Graham's book may purchase the results of my own market research [i.e. the results of Experiment 1] for the amount of my motor insurance policy's excess.


This is a Book Review published on 30 June 1998.

Citation: Lantz B, 'Graham P. Cornish's Copyright: interpreting the law for libraries, archives and information services (2nd ed.)', Book Review, 1998 (2) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/bookrev/98_2lant/>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1998_2/lantz/>


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