Copyright warning: Spare Rib digitisation project

18th December, 2013

The British Library is proposing to digitise its collection of issues of Spare Rib, the pioneering feminist magazine published monthly from 1972 to 1993. In order to distribute the magazine free of charge whilst it is still in copyright, the library has chosen to ask contributing photographers, illustrators and writers to sign a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 3.0 Unported licence.

Amongst other things, this licence allows the licensee to “copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format”, and to “remix, transform, and build upon the material”. There is an excellent explanation of why this is a very bad – and totally unnecessary – idea by Spare Rib contributor Gillian Spraggs on the Action on Authors’ Rights blog. Anyone contacted by the British Library should read it carefully, and should also consider whether they wish to sign away their rights in perpetuity without payment.

The London Photographers’ Branch believes there are much better ways to implement this initiative without endangering the rights of copyright holders, and will be writing to express our concerns to the former Spare Rib editorial board, and to the British Library via the NUJ Freelance Office.

In the meantime, we strongly recommend that former contributors who receive a request to sign the licence do not do so.

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