Online Library & Legal Deposit WA

Will an Online Library take the place of public libraries, what's involved and where does copyright fit into it?

Will an Online Library take the place of Public Libraries, what's involved and where does copyright fit into it?

Last night I attended Port80, which is a monthly meeting organised by the Australian Web Industry Association.

The flavour of the night (aside from Sushi, Stella Artois and Judd's bad junk jokes) was Legal Deposit. Julie Ham from the State Library of Western Australia gave up her time to share with us what Legal Deposit is and how it may affect us or our clients.

Julie Ham from the State Library of Western Australia
Image Source: Marianne Annereau (PanThrough360)

Unfortunately I did miss some of the presentation as my phone number on the after hours entrance meant that I was in and out more than a record breaking hokey pokey dance - seriously there is such a thing :/ - though from what I did get, this seems to be the basic idea:

With more and more publications being produced in an online format only, there is a huge potential for major events and even general snapshots of history to star trek across the universe and into a giant black hole, never to be available to future generations.

It's something I hadn't really thought about until last night but it's quite an incredible idea. We often take for granted the fact that libraries contain a wealth of information spanning back many many years, giving us insight to a time gone by, however public libraries just like everyone else, needs to move with the times.

In order to do just that, the end result is quite clear - create an Online Library which is automatically updated with content from social media, newspapers, blogs and the like. Something which can be accessed by all and will give a snapshot of this present time to future generations - just as the traditional public library does.

The logistics though probably couldn't be more complex. Obviously the State Library of Western Australia is only interested in collecting data from WA websites. So what is a WA website, how do you collect that data, how do you automatically check for updates to it, how often do you check, how much needs to change before you collect it as a new version, where does copyright fit into it, what are the legal requirements for publishers of online material and did you actually need to take a breath before finishing this sentence? (My English teacher would be so proud!) This is just a tiny portion of the considerations though once you have thought about all these and more, you then have to find a way to make everything work together in a consistent, clear and legal way.

A massive undertaking and I'm sure Julie only just scratched the surface.

Some things I was pondering during the drive home (as well as QR cows, German relatives and actually getting out of Langford with all 4 wheels on the car) are:

  1. Content (Web) Harvesting is happening already, it's just that the content is not publicly available due to copyright laws. Is this sort of like "it's only breaching copyright if you get caught"? I understand that if/when the laws are changed there will be a backlog of data that can then be made available, just seems a bit odd to me - maybe I misunderstood this part...
  2. Sometimes a website will publish something which causes offence, or is completely inaccurate (Unlike certain blog posts relating to horses and ice creams). Assuming those websites were actually pulled up on it and retracted that content, if the content had already been harvested but for whatever reason the retraction wasn't, how would that affect the accuracy of the data in the future?

Do you have any thoughts or concerns about this or do you feel that it isn't important and you wont be affected by Legal Deposit and an Online Library?