Consultation European Commission on library digitising

By EDRi · October 5, 2005

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on its program to digitise the collections of European libraries. The program on digital libraries is a response to a letter sent in April this year by six European presidents and priministers to create a virtual European library.

On 30 September the Commission adopted a Communication on the topic and published an accompanying staff working paper. In this Communication the Commission explains the link with Google’s digitisation initiative. “Digitisation activities exist in all the Member States, but efforts are fragmented and progress has been relatively slow. This was underlined by the announcement of the Google initiative to digitise 15 million books from four major libraries in the US and one in Europe. If realised as planned, the Google initiative by far exceeds the efforts at national level in any of the Member States.”

When it comes to digitising works, the Commission chooses to start with works in the public domain. It notes rather dryly: “An online library offering works beyond public domain material is not possible without a substantial change in the copyright legislation, or agreements, on a case by case basis, with the right-holders.” The same legal challenge is set by digital preservation: “Since it depends on copying and migration, it has to be considered in the light of IPR legislation.”

Somewhere in 2006 the Commission plans to issue a second Communication on the specific challenges of making scientific materials accessible for the public.

Meanwhile another US Internet giant is offering help to digitise works in the public domain; Yahoo announced plans to digitise books, in alliance with HP and Adobe. As with all ‘free’ offers, the hidden costs are very high. For example the exclusive rights to the commercial exploitation of the digitised works.

Commission website on the library initiative

Commission consultation (runs until 20 January 2006)

Yahoo! follows Google into print minefield (04.10.2005)