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Second Round Table: The Juridical Internet: New Means, News Inequalities. Mr David MERKIN

On-Line Data and Juridical Services - The Evolution of an e-Business in Law

Friday 5 November 2004, by David Merkin

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Mr. David Merkin, Coordinator of Library Services, Shearman & Sterling LLP; President Law Library Association of Greater New York, USA

Law libraries have been going digital since the creation of Lexis in 1974. Lawyers have been venturing onto the Internet since the early 1990’s . Research once Conducted by browsing through stacks is now accomplished on a desktop computer with A few keystrokes. True research is easier than it used to be, but for librarians, the Leaders of this change, it’s never been harder or more expensive.

More and more information resources are available electronically. In this exciting But uncertain environment information providers who of course need to protect there Investments are turning to licenses to define and control the use of their products. So in addition to libraries following copyright laws, we must now manage the use of Information electronically by terms agreed to in a license. We must pay attention to Details and affects of these agreements on our firms and users.

The chief role of the librarian has not changed, we provide information to our Patrons. But today we do it across the globe with more information and tools at our Disposal . We deal with vendors in creating access to all branch offices, in Shearman ’s Case New York and all 18 Branches . And of course prices to content of electronic information continues to rise.

As we all know license agreements are a fact of life when using electronic databases to access information . These providers of information use licenses to control use of their products . Some may restrict the rights of the users.

Negotiating licensing agreements has become a complex task . Many Librarians Seek help from lawyers and financial officers at their firms , to help them better understand the legal language and make adjustment to various office budgets.

A lot of publishers may charge for their electronic services according to the number of attorneys or offices a firm has . Where as others may charge for 100 users even if you will only ever have 30 users and still others may set prices for concurrent users . So seeking assistance from attorneys and financial officers helps librarians work out a better deal for their firm while still keeping the vendor happy.

When negotiating license agreements , define practice group , office that would use the product most and keep in mind set budgets.

When libraries began to subscribe to electronic resources , license agreements were like all other small printed official sort of contract , non negotiable and not understandable unless you were an attorney. Customer service representatives agreed to any license terms librarians wanted when they saw the interest of going electronic . For the past 10 years more libraries are adding to electronic resources causing license agreements to be more important. More libraries in New York are eliminating Case Reporters , State laws , Digests

Throughout the years the library director received and signed license agreements. Terms like limited to four concurrent users or retained concurrent with a print subscription , recently have appeared in more and more license agreements . It was never thought that there would be ways to see a subscription was really being used according to an agreement . Quite often one now sees at the end of each agreement , your subscription will be immediately suspended if payment is not recieced on time.

Managing and complying with the terms of a license has added to a librarians regular job duties. Once agreements have been signed , which apply to the law firm and employees , who may never see or use the database , its up to the librarian to see that compliance with the terms take place. Usually with the librarian telling users questions about use or access should be directed back to them.

A lot of librarians will refuse to accept a license if it has the terms : "not allowed to cancel print subscription" , or there is no clear definition of site or users or if the library is to be held liable for attorney miss use of a subscription.

Librarians when giving ID’s to electronic sources will spend time on educating users on use , and contents of a firm license agreement. If librarians know of violations to agreements they usually will cut off violators database access .

Agreements all let one retrieve display and print individual pages , even store pages on a disk , but not on any server or other storage device connected to a network .

Copyright law is restated in license agreements , mentioning permission from the information provider is needed before redistributing , and all agreements do not allow you to remove the copyright or trademark notice or create a database of articles downloaded off a particular website .

However sites that post news articles allow you to print and download as long at the bottom of each article you state " used with permission " and the name of the provider . Copying or downloading is used frequently when the person claims fair use ? for educational , scholary purposes or to be used in a newspaper article.

Digital copies have the same copyright protection as printed materials . The Digital Millenium Copyright Act updates the 1976 Copyright Law for electronic use.

Many online users have the mistaken idea that any work available online can be freely copied and distributed without permission . Copyright laws have stopped large publishers and information providers stealing from smaller ones.

It is not hard to see what is coming , if libraries want to download print , or forward articles or papers or books , all must be negotiated and appear in a license agreement . A large amount of future acquisitions may be online to accommodate all offices of a firm . So all contracts , agreements have to be carefully studied before signed and shown to our patrons. These have now become a fact of life in conducting business in the electronic environment. Negotiating and understanding license agreements is the new frontier for law librarians.

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Xavier Strubel, Enrique Batalla, Tony Issa, David Merkin
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View online : LLAGNY : Law Library Association of Greater New York

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