When the British Newspaper Archive was launched a few weeks back a lot of researchers were frustrated to discover that the ‘unlimited’ subscription package actually had a ‘fair use’ cap of 1000 page views per month. When I e-mailed the archive’s customer service team about it they informed me that the archive was intended for ‘personal use’ only and that the cap was non-negotiable. Fortunately, they seem to have had a slight change of heart. The ‘fair usage’ section of the archive’s terms & conditions has now been updated to read:

Why do we have a fair usage policy for subscribers? Well, it is certainly not a way to penalise or hold back our customers from conducting their personal research.

We have this in place purely for the (very rare) cases where people might abuse the service, and it is designed to keep the price of subscriptions as low as possible for our customers.

You are permitted to view an average of 1000 pages per month (calculated over a 3 month period). If you get close to the limit, we’ll send you an email to warn you. We always contact users to establish the reason for abnormally heavy use of the site and if they’re just doing their own personal research, we obviously don’t penalise them.

We constantly review the limit, based on average usage of the site by all users. We will continue to keep an eye on this and make adjustments as necessary.

Many services today (such as broadband packages) have similar fair usage policies and they work in the same way as ours i.e they are designed to catch those who use the service excessively (which would drive up the price or reduce the quality of service for the majority of users).

We hope this explains things – Please contact Customer Support if you have any further questions

This looks like good news. The three month average is definitely a welcome concession. It’s hard to interpret precisely what happens when you exceed the limit now – they seem to be suggesting that users will be contacted and exempted from the restrictions if they’re just using the archive for personal research. I’d still like to see how this works in practice before paying for an £80 subscription, but it looks like the problem has been resolved. Well done to all who complained about it and credit to the BNA for listening to our concerns.