Tuesday

22nd May 2018

Focus

Old books only in European Digital Library

The EU wants to digitalise and online the vast volumes of cultural works in member state libraries to make them accessible to all, but unless the issue of copyright and intellectual property rights are solved, the European Digital Library may consist only of books and journals published before the 1920s.

The European Commission in August urged the 25 EU member states to speed up and co-operate on the setting up of a European-wide digital library.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

In its recommendation, Brussels called on governments to deal with obstacles such as copyright questions and reasons for delays in the digitalisation of materials, which include books, journals, newspapers, photographs, museum objects, films and other cultural works.

The two main incentives for the digitalisation move are the preservation of cultural heritage and academic research.

"Each year, hundreds of works in Europe's libraries are destroyed by old age," says commission IT spokesman Martin Selmayr.

The aim is to have at least 2 million cultural works accessible via the European Digital Library by 2008, and at least six million volumes by 2010.

Will living authors see their work online?

But until a solution is found, only volumes already in the public domain - works no longer covered by intellectual property rights - will be available online.

Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works are covered by intellectual property rights for the lifetime of the author plus a period of 70 years from the end of the year in which the author dies.

This means works being digitalised for the library will mainly be from before the 1920s unless the issue of intellectual property rights is dealt with.

"This is one of the main topics in all discussions going on at the moment," says Britta Woldering of Deutsche Nationalbibliothek and CENL – a group of national librarians.

"The issue of copyright is the biggest barrier for digitalisation," she said.

Ms Woldering said many libraries with digitalised works could only show them in their own reading rooms. "It's like keeping them in a black box, which is ridiculous if you think how many readers they could reach online," she noted.

The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek is following Europe's plans for copyright and intellectual property rights very closely. The relatively new library dates from 1913 with most of the collection still very much under copyright.

"For recent content, copyright is an issue," Mr Selmayr admitted. "Only by agreements between the rights holders will it work out, but there is no one-size-fit-all solution for this."

"We need to protect the rights of the authors because otherwise there will be no authors," he said.

However, the European Publishers Council (EPC) does not share the view that intellectual property rights are an obstruction to the commission initiative.

"Copyright and related rights are not legislative barriers," says Angela Mills Wade from the EPC. "On the contrary, they are enablers which make it possible for rights creators - the source of Europe's cultural heritage - to make works available."

But she adds that the digitisation of works should only occur if they are already in the public domain and/or with the consent of the rights holder and under terms and agreed by the publishers.

Authors fear being hailed as the bad guys

"Some even question the very concept of copyright, implying that authors are standing in the way of progress and the free flow of information," Trond Andreassen, head of the European writers congress, wrote in a recommendation to the commission at the beginning of the year.

"As writers, we need copyright and the incentive, both moral and financial, it gives to keep us writing," he added.

At the same time, he also underlined the importance of having recent work included in the digital library. "Authors want their works to be read and used."

A ‘loose-fitting' EU copyright directive from 2001 has meant that the law has been interpreted differently by the member states, leading to differing copyright laws in the 25 EU countries.

A committee working on how to best achieve a digital library was set up earlier this year specifically to deal with copyright issues in relation to digital libraries between member states and the different players.

The European digital library is set to develop around the already existing portal of The European Library's (TEL) infrastructure, which is currently a gateway to the catalogues in a number of EU national libraries.

The aim of the project is to achieve a portal to the digitised cultural works of Europe's cultural institutions such as libraries, archives and museums.

But will a digital library lead to ‘physical' libraries ceasing to exist?

"No, not at all," says Ms Woldering. "Printing of material is on the rise and ‘physical' users are increasingly filling up the reading rooms."

To read more on this topic click here for EUobserver's special FOCUS on Creative Rights

France launches Francophone digital library

The French national library BNF has launched a prototype version of its contribution to a European digital library aimed as one of the European alternatives to US digitalisations of books and documents.

Pressure mounts on EU cloud deal as deadline looms

The European Commission is under pressure to keep to its self-imposed September deadline to publish an EU cloud computing strategy, as new evidence revealed widespread public confusion about it.

Commission 'playing tricks' with EU budget figures

The EU parliament's budget rapporteur complained the Commission is using numbers with a "desire to confuse". According to parliament estimates, the cohesion fund could suffer as much as a 45 percent cut.

News in Brief

  1. Trump warns Nato allies' low budgets will be 'dealt with'
  2. Only Estonia, Greece and UK hit Nato spending target
  3. EU to start process to counter US Iran sanctions
  4. Macedonia PM sees 'possible solutions' in Greek name row
  5. EU takes six countries to court over air pollution
  6. New Catalan leader sworn in without reference to Spain
  7. Merkel and Putin revive dialogue in troubled times
  8. European companies putting Iran business on hold

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund
  2. Nordics could be first carbon-negative region in world
  3. Zuckerberg and Trump top the EU's agenda This WEEK
  4. Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny
  5. Bulgarian PM: No asylum reform without stronger border
  6. Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline
  7. Italian populists to defy EU debt rules
  8. Commission 'playing tricks' with EU budget figures

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight