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Research Summary: Universal Availability of Publications and Copyright Laws

From time to time TWL will publish condensed versions of certain articles submitted to the Editor. In this way a greater number of discussions and investigations will be presented to readers of the journal than would otherwise be possible.

Research Summary: 2. Universal Availability of Publications and Copyright Laws

Universal availability of Publications (UAP) is a program jointly sponsored by IFLA and Unesco, “whose main aims are the provision of man’s recorded achievements to all in need of it.” [1] UAP extends the earlier program of Universal Bibliographic Control (UBC), whose intention is to see that the publications of each country are listed in national bibliographies. The importance of both programs to developing countries is that those countries require awareness of and access to all publications in order to accelerate their educational and technological progress. Obstacles to effective UBC and UAP in the Third World include the failure of many nations to compile adequate lists of their own book output; a weak book trade; ineffective communication among librarians; foreign exchange problems; and the pervasive troubles of economic liquidity and inflation. Copyright laws, properly framed and enforced, can be of great value in overcoming certain of these obstacles. In Nigeria the applicable legislation is Copyright Decree No. 47 (1988).

The Nigerian law protects all formats: books, films, sound recordings, broadcasts, and artistic works. Under the Decree there was established a Copyright Council to monitor compliance. The principle of “fair use” is expressed in the Decree, in terms similar to those of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976. There is also a depository provision, requiring that publishers send copies of their output to the National Library.

While the intent of such copyright laws is to protect creators and publishers of literary and other works, the laws also offer the basis for listings in national bibliographies. To some extent copyright laws also ensure availability, but whether access is “universal” or not depends on other factors. International circulation of library materials was facilitated by the Florence Agreement, adapted in 1950 by Unesco. The Agreement reduced tariffs and other trade obstacles to the transfer of books, art works, audio materials, and video materials. Another important area of cooperation is identified with the International Publishers Association, whose efforts have simplified the flow of books among nations and the consideration of international copyright questions.

Librarians who have regarded copyright laws as barriers might more realistically view them as essential to library purposes. Such laws, and related international agreements, make UBC possible, and thus make UAP possible. It is in the interest of librarians in any country to advise their governments to write copyright legislation in a way that will support UBC. For example, it is advantageous to have a single copyright depository library in each country, rather than several. Monitoring is easier with a single depository, and international communication is clarified. Another element that librarians ought to support is the establishment of a national clearing house for information about copyright matters. Authors, publishers, and librarians should have definite guidance about what they may and may not reproduce or lend. To the extent that a number of Third World countries can work together in promoting uniform regulations across borders, the availability of publications will increase.


1. M.B. Line, “Universal Availability of Publications: A Prerequisite of Development,” IFLA Journal 12‑4 (1986): 325‑328.

© 1993 Dominican University


Anigilaje, M. A. O., “Research Summary: Universal Availability of Publications and Copyright Laws” Third World Libraries, Volume 3, Number 2 (Spring 1993).

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