OpenAthens conference

Emily Powell, College of Policing discusses piracy ahead of our conference panel debate

05 February 2019 • Jane Charlton, senior marketing manager - community and content

Star speakers from across the information industry will share their thoughts and expertise at the annual OpenAthens one-day conference taking place on 19 March at the America Square Conference Centre, London. Hot topics will include user-centred design and experience, user consent and privacy, piracy and practical use of identity and access management.

The programme will feature a panel debate on whether piracy acts as a disruptor for positive change within the information industry and among the debate speakers will be Emily Powell, knowledge and information specialist at the College of Policing.

Ahead of the conference in March, we had a chat with Emily to find out a little bit more about the College of Policing and what she’s going to be talking about in the debate:

What is the College of Policing and what is your role?

Established in 2012, the College of Policing provides those working in policing with the skills and knowledge necessary to prevent crime, protect the public and secure public trust.

The College develops the infrastructure and research for guiding policing practice, supports the education and training of those in the profession and sets standards in policing for forces and individuals.

I’m the knowledge and information specialist and I run the discovery and library management service. My role also includes managing the College’s web pages and intranet, for example, as well as ensuring easy access to knowledge through the organisation.

How does the College of policing work with OpenAthens?

OpenAthens provides the College of Policing with its single sign-on authentication system, so the College can give police officers all over the country access to resources.

This is particularly important owing to the College’s focus on education and training for those in policing and the simplicity of the software enables me, as knowledge and information specialist, to encourage use of library resources among the College’s members.

What is the current state of play concerning the issue of piracy?

My role has enabled me to understand a lot more about the issue of piracy and why it is becoming more and more prominent. The College has a small library which, like many other libraries, faces regular budget cuts. On the flipside, publishers are charging increasingly high costs and providing ever more complicated access routes in order to protect the valuable content they deliver.

Ultimately, resources are becoming incredibly difficult to access when the end goal of library users is to reach the content they need, when they need it, with as little effort as possible. This often results in users bypassing the legitimate access routes and visiting pirate sites with readily available content without realizing, in order to view the information they need.

What insight can you give us ahead of the panel debate?

Piracy is an incredibly interesting yet thorny issue that I think has contributed to the recent impetus for addressing the need for Open Access and more seamless access to subscribed content.

There is a great deal of confusion around piracy, including amongst librarians. As businesses, publishers need to protect their content but libraries are being priced out of including this content in their collections as a result.

What’s more, if library users aren’t using the resources provided and are accessing them illegally, then budgets are likely to be spent in other areas of the institution instead. This exacerbates the issue as library budgets are cut, legitimate access to content is made more complex still and students, researchers and other users remain frustrated by complex user journeys.

Piracy also comes with certain risks as users and organizations can become targeted by hackers and cybercriminals who can sometimes get hold of personal data this way.

I don’t know what the answer is, but we certainly need a solution which is perhaps a hybrid between Open Access and chargeable usage. I think the model needs to be shifted in a similar way to the film and music industries which have evolved in recent years; as online access to films and music first became readily available, pirate sites became the easiest way to stream content as the industries struggled to keep up with changing consumer behavior.

Now, subscription-based services such as Spotify or Netflix have paved the way where users pay certain sums of money monthly or annually for often unlimited access to a huge range of television, music and film. To keep up with the digital age, other easy access options need to be implemented in order to eradicate the illegal routes to content.

It will be great to discuss this alongside Duncan Campbell and Naomi Korn at the OpenAthens Conference and I’m looking forward to hearing the thoughts of our audience on this topic – send us your panel questions when you register for the conference.


Want to know more?

Read Andrew Pitt’s Scholarly Kitchen guest blog: Think Sci-Hub is Just Downloading PDFs? Think Again.

Read Andrew's blog