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MEPs vote to create a European digital library

European lawmakers have called for the creation of a multilingual European digital library aimed at securing easy access to the continent's cultural heritage.

MEPs in the European Parliament's culture committee unanimously adopted a report - 'i2010: Easy access to European cultural heritage' - by French centre-right MEP Marie-Hélène Descamps on Monday (16 July).

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"By adopting this report unanimously, the culture and education committee has shown it is clearly in favour of the creation of a European digital library, which will allow access to all the diversity and the richness of Europe's cultural heritage," Ms Descamps said in a statement.

The report - which is non-legislative, proposes the setting up of a digital library in the form of a single, direct and multilingual access point.

Initially, the focus would be on creating access to copyright-free material - mainly works from before the 1920s. In the longer term, the aim of the digital library would be to cover all categories of cultural material, including audiovisual work.

The report also calls for new financing methods to be developed, including partnerships with the private sector, in order to ensure that more recent and copyrighted works can be remunerated.

The Parliament move comes after the European Commission announced in 2005, its strategy to support the creation of a European Digital Library as a goal within the European Information Society i2010 initiative, aiming to foster growth and jobs in the information society and media industries.

The Commission communication followed a letter from the heads of state of France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Spain earlier in the year calling for the creation of a virtual European library.

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 resources of 47 national libraries in Europe, including books, magazines, journals, audio recordings and other material.

Some of the material is available for free, while other material is priced at a cost depending on the copyright.

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The European Commission is to set up a European digital library able to display around six million books, photographs and films and available to all internet users by 2010. On Thursday it announced it would look into copyright issues arising from the project.

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

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