“Let Libraries Lend E-books” – an update on e-book campaigning and EU copyright reform

Building on the European Bureau of Library Information and Documentation Association’s (EBLIDA) “E-books in libraries campaign”, which ran between 2012 and 2013, “The Right to E-read” campaign is aimed at raising awareness amongst the general public, librarians and policy makers about the difficulties libraries, especially public libraries, are currently facing with regard to acquiring and lending e-books.  Led by EBLIDA – and branded in the UK as “Let Libraries Lend E-books” – the campaign is also calling for changes to the EU’s copyright framework, because the difference in treatment of printed and e-books stems from copyright law.  Earlier this year I gave an overview of this legal position and the campaign to reform it (click here).  Below is an update of activities and developments since that blog was posted.

E-reading Day
The focal point of the campaign so far has been the E-reading Day on 23 April, the UN’s World Book and Copyright Day. Many national professional associations, including CILIP, marked the day by issuing a press release highlighting the challenges public libraries are facing.  With the help of Shelf Free members Helen Leech, Gary Green and Jon Scown we were able to include new statistics on e-book lending – of the 50 most borrowed print books from libraries in February 2014, 45 have been published in e-book format but only 3 of these have been made available to libraries.  Click here for the press release, which includes links to infographics illustrating the current situation.

E-lending Petition
April 23rd also saw the launch of a European-wide petition calling for changes to copyright law so public libraries have the same right to lend e-books as they do printed books.  At the time of writing this petition has almost 15,000 signatories.  It is still open and we urge you to add your signature.

EBLIDA’s Right to E‐read Position Paper
In May EBLIDA published its revised position paper on e-book acquisition and lending and made two overarching recommendations:

Firstly, “Mandatory Fair Licensing” to ensure that each and every e-lending model fully accommodates libraries’ missions and needs by:

•    Including licence terms and conditions that do not undermine statutory exceptions and limitations to copyright law permitted within the EU or its Member States.
•    Making compulsory the removal of technological protection measures for all legitimate uses.
•    Preventing publishers from refusing to sell digital content to libraries, imposing or limiting which titles they may acquire, or making any prohibition on library e-lending.
•    Ensuring that e-books and other digital content is offered to libraries at reasonable prices.
•    Mandating that licence terms and conditions support libraries’ missions and activities.
•    Guaranteeing that licences follow EBLIDA’s key principles on the acquisition and access to e-books

However, EBLIDA does not believe that licensing initiatives alone are enough to ensure freedom of access to knowledge through our libraries.   They also recommend that the European Copyright Acquis be updated to ensure that:

•    Provisions are introduced into copyright law to prevent contract terms from undermining statutory exceptions and limitations permitted within the EU or its Member States
•    The removal of technological protection measures is made compulsory for all legitimate uses.
•    Libraries are granted a ‘right to acquire’ any work legitimately made available to the public (including the right to acquire digital files) so that transfer of ownership takes place and the principle of exhaustion applies.
•    A new mandatory exception is introduced granting libraries the ‘right to lend’ (including ‘e-lend’ remotely) any work in any format.

Download the Right to E-read Position Paper

EU review of copyright rules
In December last year the EU launched a consultation in an effort to gather views on how to modernise the existing EU copyright framework.  The consultation spanned 80 questions and covered a broad spectrum of copyright law, looking at areas where copyright inhibits cross-border provision and the functioning of the (Digital) Single Market.  There were a series of questions on e-book lending and in March EBLIDA, LACA (the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance, which is convened by CILIP) and Shelf Free submitted evidence of the problems currently being faced and called for an exception to copyright law to allow libraries to purchase e-books for lending, and also for the EU to confirm whether the principle of exhaustion applies to sales of digital materials (for an explanation of the principle of exhaustion please see my previous post).

The consultation attracted 11,117 responses and will inform a European Commission (EC) White Paper examining whether and how further action on the current system of rights, their licensing and exercise, the exceptions to rights and their enforcement is warranted at EU level.  The official White Paper is not expected until the autumn, but a leaked draft suggests the EC is taking a cautious approach to reform, including e-lending.  The draft states that “policy initiatives on the exhaustion principle would seem premature at this stage” and that “further observation of how licensing models and technologies evolve” is necessary, as well as “extensive assessment of the consequences that initiatives in this area could have on digital markets”  (p7).  We’ll have to wait until September to find out if the official version is more ambitious.

What next for the EBLIDA campaign?
•    At a European Level the main emphasis is currently on getting people to sign the petition. The EBLIDA Executive Committee will be meeting in Brussels in late October and intends to present the petition to the EU Commission.
•    CILIP has plans to lobby members of the devolved parliaments/assemblies on the issues in September and will also lobby the new UK MEPs later in the year.   We are also exploring possibilities of lobbying relevant local Councillors (Leaders of Council, Cultural Services portfolio holders etc).
•    The EU Copyright White Paper, when published, will form another focus for campaigning.

Updates will be posted on this blog and on the CILIP website.

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