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Re: EPC: putting out-of-print Xtal textbooks on-line?

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <epc-l@iucr.org>
  • Subject: Re: EPC: putting out-of-print Xtal textbooks on-line?
  • From: Brian McMahon <bm@iucr.org>
  • Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2003 11:14:26 GMT

Lachlan's proposal to digitise and archive old crystallography textbooks
is not without some attraction, though Howard's assessment of the usefulness
of doing this on a large scale is probably fairly accurate. If particular
titles are identified as suitable for this type of treatment, Chester would
be willing to provide the relevant infrastructure, namely
    - web hosting
    - backup and longer-term archival
    - technical specifications for scanning

We probably don't want to get into the actual business of scanning, although
for large-scale projects we could renew contacts with HEDS or perhaps
investigate other contacts. We could also discuss with the Finance Committee 
small-scale budgets for individual projects (though I guess this might well, 
on a sufficiently small scale, go through the CEP annual budget
requirements).

*However*, the bugbear in this might turn out to be the question of
rights. Authors often believe that they retain copyright, whereas in
practice the publisher has equal or greater claim: agreements need to be
scrutinised carefully. And it may well be that though the ownership of the
copyright of content has reverted to the author, the right to copy
typography and design (i.e. manufacturing a facsimile copy) is likely still
to reside with the publisher. That is, while the author may be free to have
his book re-typeset, third parties are not free to scan and redistribute the 
original image of the book.

In any such case, one would have to approach the publishers and obtain from
them a clear agreement to dispose of the book in this fashion. The
agreement might be a formal copyright transfer; more likely it would be a
licence. I would also argue that efforts should be made to avoid an unduly
restrictive licence. If, for example, the IUCr accumulated a collection of
such out-of-print works but subsequently felt that they would be better
hosted by another party - for example the British Library - it would be
better to be able to hand over (or share) the custodianship of the materials 
without needing to go back for another round of negotiation with the
original publisher.

Pete and I suspect that obtaining such agreements from publishers would be
lengthy, expensive, and in many cases out of proportion to the value to the
community of making the works available. But if members of the Committee are 
willing to sound out a couple of test cases, we're happy to follow progress
and help if possible.

Best wishes
Brian

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