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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.
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    Sunday, December 17, 2006

    Moving beyond licences?

    Despite the use of model licences, librarians and publishers spend time handling and negotiating licences. In the US, the Association of Research Libraries, the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, SPARC, and the Society for Scholarly Publishing agreed that finding an alternative to licenses was a worthwhile cause. Karla Hahn of ARL has written a short overview of progress to date: "Do I have to negotiate a license for every e-resource I buy? Developing a best practice option".

    This is an advance of which the JISC, university librarians, UK publishers, and the UK Publishers Association should be aware. It has huge potential. I quote from the article:
    Model licenses have been helpful in many ways, but both libraries and publishers report that by and large they do not eliminate handling costs for librarians and publishers because some negotiations typically remain... One indicator that an alternative to licenses might be possible is the observation that some publishers have simply been transacting sales of e-resources to libraries without requiring licenses...
    After looking at the risks perceived by librarians and publishers that initially prompted the creation of license agreements, the group became convinced that it is possible to develop a new way to address the exposure that each party felt in dealing with electronic resources... Despite the range of perspectives on the problem, there was consensus that a best practice approach was possible and could be useful in many cases. The best practice approach would rely on existing law and create a document describing a brief list of expectations that could be shared by librarians and publishers. If a publisher felt that the best practices and existing law were sufficient to manage their perceived risk, they could market their product indicating their reliance on the expectations described in the best practices and forgo use of a formal license agreement.
    The next steps will be working with NISO to begin the process of developing the best practice statement with a formal working group.
    This should excite both librarians and publishers! Any move which simplifies the sale/purchase of e-resources, and reduces the number of licensing (and charging?) models has to be welcomed.

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