by Maria Cassella
This article analyzes e-journals licensing agreements, an issue that until now has not been deeply investigated in the area of Italian professional literature, in which reflection on licenses has often been ancillary to that on library consortia and, more generally, to that on electronic resources and on scholarly communication.
An investigation of the licensing agreements system reveals areas of light and shade. Ten years and more of negotiations have permitted the library world to solve in its favour some of the problems of licensing agreements (for example, those regarding clauses on authorized users), while there are still some large areas unsolved regarding the service of electronic document delivery and on the long term access. Among the other critical points of this kind of agreements, that of the so-called confidentiality clause or non-disclosure clause was highlighted. It is in fact a clause that "forbids libraries to exchange with others information on the price, use and other important terms or conditions".
For those who opt for the "paper+electronic" commercial model, there is still the problem of managing the maintenance of the paper subscriptions (non cancellation clause) with a minimum margin of granted dismissions.
The e-only option by now foreseen for the vast majority of licensing agreements does however continue to be an economically disadvantageous choice given the scanty discounts proposed by the editors for those who opt for this type of contract and the high VAT rate in Europe.
Thanks to these new kinds of e-only agreements that are increasingly more often adopted by consortia not only in the United States, but also in Europe, the problem of the maintenance of the restricted subscriptions is becoming an obsolete theme and is leaving space for numerous other interrogatives: first among these, that of digital preservation.
In the digital era, using the expertise of their legal offices, "daily contact" with remote users has taught libraries and library consortia to deal with all the possible implications of a licensing agreement.
In a not very distant future it will be possible for libraries to hope that «license terms will become so standard for various categories of content (such as e-journals) that we will not need them much at all; all that will be left will be a pricing agreement - for as we all know price continues to be the greatest area of dissent and disagreement between libraries and their suppliers».