EU Parliament breakfast discusses the copyright needs of libraries

Yesterday, IFLA together with the Copyright 4 Creativity coalition (C4C) organized a debate in the EU Parliament to discuss whether existing international and EU copyright frameworks strike the right balance between access to information...

Yesterday morning, Thursday 20th March, IFLA together with the Copyright 4 Creativity coalition (C4C) organized a breakfast debate in the EU Parliament to discuss whether existing international and EU copyright frameworks strike the right balance between access to information, research and innovation, and the need to protect creators.

The breakfast debate was co-hosted by MEPs Amelia Andersdotter (Swedish, Greens/EFA) and Marietje Schaake (Dutch, ALDE), chaired by the IFLA Deputy Secretary General Stuart Hamilton and featured speakers including: Amelia Andersdotter; Kerstin Jorna, Director Intellectual Property Directorate, European Commission DG MARKT; Ellen Broad, Manager, Digital Projects & Policy, IFLA; Susan Reilly, Projects Manager, LIBER and Vincent Bonnet, Director, EBLIDA.

The breakfast debate came at an opportune time, as the European Commission works its way through over 11,000 submissions to the European Copyright Consultation, and IFLA and associated library and archive organisations prepare for the next meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright & Related Rights (SCCR) at WIPO in Geneva, taking place 28 April – 3 May.

Ms Amelia Andersdotter opened the debate placing the discussion on regional and international copyright frameworks supporting libraries in the broader context of a healthy, inclusive digital economy. Amelia spoke about the challenges copyright poses to the flow of information across EU borders, and how this is antithetical so European Union values and aims, and at odds with a strong EU tradition of initiating new technologies and activities to facilitate information flow.

Ms Kerstin Jorna from the European Commission drew applause from the audience with her announcement that the night before, Wednesday 19th March, the European Council approved the European Commission’s proposal to sign the Marrakesh Treaty ensuring access to accessible format works for the world’s visually impaired and print disabled. The European Union’s signing of the Marrakesh Treaty will be a significant step forward towards realization of its aims, being to end the book famine for the blind.

Ms Jorna also filled in the audience on the Commission’s progress opening and analyzing the over 11,000 submissions to the EU Copyright Consultation. Despite committing an extensive team to processing these submissions from across DG MARKT, Ms Jorna indicated that progress would take time. Ms Jorna also spoke of the challenges for libraries in the European Union that have been noted by the Commission, citing library frustrations with preservation provisions that aren’t fit for purpose in the digital environment (and the differing preservation exceptions between EU Member States) and with the requirement that access to online materials in libraries be from a designated terminal on library premises.

Ms Ellen Broad spoke about IFLA’s work at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). Ms Broad drew a broader picture of copyright challenges for these institutions than at the EU level, noting that some of the biggest beneficiaries from this treaty stand to be libraries in Latin America and Africa, where exceptions and limitations for libraries are less widespread. Ms Broad noted that libraries are now providing services and reaching audiences that are global in nature, which is why a global solution is needed. Highlighting cross border preservation projects as one example of the kind of opportunity afforded in the internet environment but hamstrung by copyright complexities, Ms Broad encouraged the EU to engage with libraries at WIPO to productively progress this and other issues.

Mr Vincent Bonnet highlighted the challenges for libraries in the European Union providing access to digital content, particularly eBooks. Mr Bonnet spoke about issues for libraries negotiating complex licensing agreements, and the increasing influence of publishers through licensing on library acquisition decisions and how they are able to fulfill their mission. Mr Bonnet expressed concern with descriptions of libraries as “competing with” publishers, and urged the European Commission to take more than a market approach to copyright reform in the European Union. Mr Bonnet also urged the European Commission to include a library representative on its delegation to WIPO, as is the practice on some other country delegations.

Last but certainly not least, Ms Susan Reilly spoke to attendees about enabling data driven innovation in the European Union. LIBER has been at the forefront of discussions regarding the conflict between copyright and text and data mining in the European Union, in both Licenses for Europe and the European Copyright Consultation processes. Ms Reilly highlighted the inadequacy of licensing to deal with the variety of content researchers seek to mine, spanning licensed content to the open web. Ms Reilly noted that research collaboration is now global in nature, which is why LIBER were interested in how it could be better fostered through a WIPO treaty.

At the conclusion of presentations, a lively discussion took place on challenges for libraries and other cultural heritage organisations online, the shortcomings of a solely market based approach to copyright policy making and ways to improve consumer respect for copyright laws.

IFLA would like to thank all of the participants for their time and insightful presentations and questions, and to Ms Amelia Andersdotter and Ms Marietje Schaake for generously hosting the debate.



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