EU Decision on Digitization by Library

October 8, 2014

The European Court of Justice recently issued an interesting ruling. Intellectual Property Watch reports that “Libraries May Be Permitted to Digitise Books Without Copyright Owner’s Consent, EU High Court Rules.” The decision says libraries may digitize works to make them available at electronic reading stations, but draws the line at printing them out or copying them to a USB drive. The precipitating event seems to have occurred in Germany, where a university library refused to purchase an e-book and, instead, chose to place the book in its computer system without the publisher’s consent.

The EU copyright directive issued in 2001 does carve out an exception for libraries to make content available electronically. Unsure whether the above usage is covered by the exception, the German Federal Court of Justice consulted the EU court for clarification. Writer Dugie Standeford explains:

“The ECJ held that even if a rights owner offers a library a licence agreement for use of the work on appropriate terms, the library may take advantage of the exception, since it otherwise could not fulfil its core mission of promoting research and private study. The directive doesn’t bar governments from giving libraries the right to digitise books, and, if necessary, from making the material available on dedicated computers, the court said.

“But the right of communication which public libraries may hold doesn’t allow people to print out the works on paper or store them on USB sticks, because those are acts of reproduction which aim to create a new copy of the digital copy, the court said. Nevertheless, it added, member states may provide an exception or limitation that allows library users to print the works or store them on a USB stick, so long as compensation is paid to the rightsholder.”

Concerns have been raised about how compensation might be collected for such copies. On the other hand, the decision has been hailed as a win for libraries and archives. The question of online access is not specifically mentioned in the ruling, but it does limit the exception to “dedicated terminals.” As remote access to information becomes more and more standard, we may have another clarification to look forward to.

Cynthia Murrell, October 08, 2014

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One Response to “EU Decision on Digitization by Library”

  1. Copyright Law Exception Allows Digitisation of 'Orphan Works' on October 31st, 2014 12:59 pm

    […] EU Decision on Digitization by Library […]

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