It’s often the simplest solutions that are the best. If you were to go back to first principles and design a car engine – taking into account finite and politically sensitive fuel supplies, not to mention the environment – it’s unlikely you’d come up with the internal combustion engine as we know it.
Part of our business is negotiating very large scale software and content licences that save the UK university sector around £30 million a year. Current models of licence have evolved from a licensing culture designed for not-for-profit educational purposes. So we’ve been working on new approaches to licensing online library resources which will suit the global education market in which universities now operate. If you have a campus somewhere abroad, or a partnership with another institution, or any number of commercial or semi-commercial activities for which you need copyright online resources, how can you ensure that you are correctly licensed for the right number of users? You might have several thousand students on your home campus, but only a few hundred on your campus abroad. How can you justify buying another institutional licence for that relatively small cohort?
We considered many possible models for a new approach to licensing, and consulted widely among publisher and university communities. Finally, we went back to first principles. Who are the parties in a licence? Answer: the copyright holder (publisher) and the licensee (university). What are they using the resources for? Answer: education, yes, but also a range of commercial activities.
After much thought, we came up with a model licence which has a core education module, to which you can add all of your education partner activities for a single additional fee, and then for a further fee you can add all of your commercial partner activities.
To help librarians categorise their users, so they can establish whether they need either of the licence extensions, we developed a set of qualifying questions – the most flexible approach, and one which provided consistent results across a range of situations.
So far the model has held in all the real life scenarios we’ve tested in our own user communities and beyond. The publishers seem to like it, too. The beauty of the new model licence is its flexibility: just like the new types of hybrid engines finally reaching the market, so we aim to be better able to meet current needs.
Stephen Butcher is CEO of Eduserv. www.eduserv.org.uk