Thursday, 20 May 2010

Copyright, On Being Blameless Protectors Of...

One of the most stressful and boring parts of working in a library or archive is explaining and upholding copyright. There are certain rules that we are expected to adhere to but, when we do so, we are made to feel like jobsworth nerds.

Readers can copy 5% of a published work, (or a chapter, whichever is bigger) and prospective house builders are only allowed an A4 section from maps which are less than 50 years old.

The majority of our wonderful customers are very understanding and lovely about it all, but some take it to heart in a most alarming manner.When we calmly and patiently explain these rules, some customers snort with derision, grunt mutinously, or gaze down at the map in their hands in a highly tragic manner and wait for us to change our minds. It makes us feel awful, like we are tattle tailing swots at school or puppy murdering sadists.

These copyright protesters seem to think that we are so personally attached to copyright restrictions that they can wound us with threats of information-related skullduggery. One customer said "I'm going to buy a tiny little hand-sized scanner and scan all the books that I want and you'll never even know!" Another said, "I'm going to come back when you're not working and then get more copies. Of the same map!" I wonder what craziness they'll get up to next. Eat their pudding before their dinner maybe? Sleep at the wrong end of the bed?

We don't make the rules, or cry if they're broken,  it's just our job to try and work with them.

We have had a department meeting about this and have decided that the next customer who tries to make us feel emotionally compromised for trying to uphold perfectly reasonable restrictions on copying the artistic works of other people, shall be shut up in one of the metal map cabinets for the rest of the day with nothing but a copy of our tediously complex copyright flowchart to while away the time.

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