Re: fair use versus new technologies

Subject: Re: fair use versus new technologies
From: Rami Heinisuo (
Date: ke 05 kesä   1996 - 16:58:13 EEST

Since I don't know Johannas e-mail address, I'm responding to the list.
Maybe the rest of the subscribers will bear with me just a little bit

On Wed, 5 Jun 1996, Emanuella Giavarra wrote:

> Dear Rami,
> Thank you very much for responding to my question.
> I am very interested how you would answer the following question. How
> should the new technologies effect the activities of libraries? Should all the
> services a library provide electronically be free for on-site users and off-site
> users or do you think that library users should pay for certain electronic
> services provided by the libraries. What about on-line services?

I think region is the keyword here. Totally free internet-based access to
valuable databases that a certain library has built can be too costly for
that particular institution, since the funding comes either from the
county or the region where they are situated in. Building and maintaining
databases is no small job. Free for on-site & regionally situated users,
fee-based or subscription (registration) based for others.

Let's suppose that our library makes an in-house music database available
on the internet because we have 'the will and the way', ie. we already
have a http-server, for example. A certain status is achieved, and
perhaps the database is easier to use even for those clients who visit
our library on a daily basis.

But. Although computers don't need coffee breaks or holidays, they can only
process x million instructions per second. Making a valuable database
freely available on the internet means that 90% of the processing power
could be consumed by people who are not in any way connected to the
library and the the community that is supporting it. This means that the
service is slower (worse) for all users, including those using the
database from inside the library. Compromises need to be made in such a
situation and usually off-site users are the ones who suffer.
Improvements in technology give many answers to these questions, inevitably.

Distributing and collecting digital information is x times cheaper when
compared to traditional, paper-based distribution. So where is the
justification for fees concerning the use of electronic resources?
Nowhere, in my opinion.

Take for example Edita here in Finland. Edita is a company nowadays, but
it used to be governments official publishing house. Publishing
collections concerning new laws and other official documents is a
considerable bisnes for them. All the new laws can be obtained from their
databases and the price is either higher or the same as that of printed
version. "Every one should know the law" is a common sentence. When using
the internet as a distribution channel, the cost per unit is almost
nonexistent. Every penny is pure profit for that publishing house and
quoting a famous tv-series: "government denies knowledge".

The pricing of the current online database providers is totally
fictional. Nowadays the technology needed to maintain those databases is
ten to hundred times cheaper and the prices are dropping constantly. Yet
I see very few online database providers running in the streets and
carrying "50 percent off" signs. Instead, they have a happy face, since
money is pouring in without significant inputs.

Maybe I was being a little too vague (and negative) but hopefully you
atleast get some ideas, whether for or against.

Greetings from Finland,


Rami Heinisuo

Rami Heinisuo City Library of Pori
Information specialist Regional library of Satakunta PB 200 FIN-28101 PORI

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