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21st Jul 2019

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Copyright deal clears way for European Digital Library

  • The digital publications would also be available on home-PCs, for users holding a password (Photo: Wikipedia.org)

An EU expert group on digital libraries has agreed to a basic model for handling copyrights for digitalised cultural publications in libraries.

The break-through deal is part of the European Digital Library initiative, launched in June 2005, to preserve European cultural and scientific heritage and make it available online in closed networks.

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The clearing of the copyright issue has been the major obstacle in the negotiations between rights-holders and the cultural institutions.

"Copyrights should not be an obstacle to the exploitation of works but an incentive", one source close to the negotiations told the EUobserver.

The model agreed on Wednesday (18 April) by the parties, which included major stakeholders such as the British Library, the German national library, the Federation of European Publishers and Google, covers only orphan works and out-of print works, but it has also built in elements that could be adopted for commercial publications in the future.

Orphan works are defined as publications where the rights holders cannot be identified, while out-of-print works are typically works no longer for sale.

"In the case of orphan works and out-of-print works, nobody loses any money. It is a win-win situation", one source close to the expert group explained.

For example, a new paper publisher could agree with a library to give access to older volumes. Publishers could also license books that are no longer in stock at libraries and keep generating some profits.

The deal was welcomed by the commission, which had asked the cultural institutions and the rights-holders to find a voluntary agreement. No change of law will be needed to implement it.

Licensing

In practice, the rights-holders could license their works to one library, which would then digitalise it and make it available to users in other libraries, museums, universities and archives in Europe.

The library holding the license would be responsible for collecting money for the use of the work in other libraries and for paying the rights-holder.The works would also be available for home-PCs, for users holding a password.

The International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO) welcomed the deal. "I am pleased with this break-through, in particular it is positive that the deal is based on a license model", said Tarja Koskinen-Olsson, honorary president of the IFRRO.

The exact level for remuneration of rights-holders is not part of the deal, but €1 is considered as a likely payment each time a piece of work is used, according to sources close to the expert group.

Insiders estimate this to be a fairly good payment of rights-holders. In comparison, online downloads of commercial music typically cost one dollar. The exact payment would depend on negotiations of the individual licenses.

The bill would end up with the cultural institutions, which are in many cases funded by public funds.

It is hoped that the libraries could also save some money if they co-operate on digitalising publications and avoiding duplication.

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