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The key element is to achieve a balance between the rights of copyright holders and the institution’s wish or need to exploit the material. Licences should preferably be in perpetuity (to minimise work) but this will not be acceptable to many licensors as the material will go out-of-date and this could be seen as treating the originator in a derogatory manner.

4.8. Notice and take down

Notice and take down policies have developed under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act and in Europe under the eCommerce Directive as means of exempting or limiting the liability of the information service provider. Some establishments already have these in place (e.g. Heriot Watt University http://www.hw.ac.uk/edu/vle/policies-take-down.htm).

Notice and Take Down policies are implemented by a formal notice that asks visitors, the copyright holder(s) or their representative, to the site to report in writing (including a physical or electronic signature), any material that visitors consider infringing:

  • Complainants are asked to give full contact details

  • identify the work that is believed to be infringed

  • provide adequate information to identify the infringing work to be removed

The complainant is also asked to provide a statement that the material is infringing or not legally permitted. There is a danger of hoaxers but until proved otherwise such requests should be treated in good faith.

All institutions with open access material need a ‘notice-and-take-down’ policy in place.

The components of the notices are:

  • report by the complainant

  • removal by the information service provider (ISP) without judging the merits of the request

  • The complainant may respond asking for replacement which is followed by replacement by the ISP without judgement.

5 Future of intellectual property rights

The one certainty about intellectual property law and in particular copyright is that it is constantly evolving but it tends to lag behind technological developments. It is generally regarded as ‘technology neutral’ although legislation concerning technological protection measures and digital rights management is leaning towards a different approach to digital information.

Most if not all the mechanisms currently available have drawbacks. The European Union has held consultations on copyright levies i.e. adding a charge to the media or equipment which enables copying to take place, a ‘tax’ not applied in the UK

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