08 June 2007

Simplicity in the UK!

As several of you might know, my Simplicity Cycle started it's life as an article for everyone's favorite technology & program managment journal, Defense AT&L.

I later expanded the idea and published it as a manifesto at ChangeThis.com, and then I re-redesigned the whole thing and turned out the book version I've been blathering on about for awhile now.

Turns out the original article is now being sold by "British Library Direct" for "£5.00 copyright fee + service charge (from £7.45)." However, that article is in the public domain, so I was curious how/why a "copyright fee" could be charged on something that isn't copyrighted... and I was a bit miffed that someone would charge £12.45 for something people can download for free. So, the following message was sent to BL Direct:

The article you reference for sale at your
link is a work of the United States government and is not copyrighted in the United States or elsewhere. I would be interested to know what copyright fee you are charging for.

As a public domain document, it is available for download free of charge - as are all articles in Defense AT&L magazine - from the relevant link on the Defense Acquisition University Web site.

In due course, we received a reply from Mr. Brian Sherwood, at the BL Direct Helpdesk

Thank you for your interest in BL Direct.

The amount of the copyright fee is set by the UK CLA (Copyright licensing Agency) and the collected fee itself is passed on to them entirely. If we are not informed of a copyright fee then the CLA flat rate applies which is £5.00 Fees are passed back to registered publishers and in the case of overseas publications the fee is passed to that country's copyright agency (CCC in the states) Undistributed fees tend to be shared out among registered publishers I believe.

BL Direct comprises our most popular 20,000 journals, indexed for the past 5 years. Of course people are not obliged to use us at all, and our service charge reflects our cost recovery rate.
Brian Sherwood
BL Direct Helpdesk

So BL Direct apparently thinks that if people are dumb enough to pay £12.45 for something they could download free at AT&L's website, that's their own fault. BL Direct is perfectly content to collect money from these people (I think the appropriate term is "exploit"), because they "are not obliged to use us at all."

I know there are other companies doing similar things with my AT&L articles, and I think it's pretty lame. I can't imagine they actually make any money doing it - at least, I hope they don't.


Gabe Mounce said...

Holy smackeral......we should find some good hackers and do some blitzgrieg, decentralized eMule style attacke on this bros....just for fun. BTW, pick up The Spider and the Starfish...it's fantastic! Talks about the heart of decentralized orgs like wikipedia and Kazza/eDonkey/eMule and centralized orgs like..um...every big business. You'll find it really ties into Aristotle.

H. Brooke said...

I was very interested to read your post. I'm the coordinator of the British Library Readers Group and many readers are annoyed by the high fees the BL charges for supplying documents and photocopies. I hadn't come across your particular example before but I will bring it up at the next meeting we have with management on 19th June.
If you're interested, please join our group. We are entirely independent and our strength comes from the number of readers we represent.
Heather Brooke