Initiative European libraries to digitise books

By EDRi · May 4, 2005

On 28 April 2005 6 EU countries sent an open letter to the European Commission and the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council asking for a European digital library. Inspired by the French president Jacques Chirac, the presidents or prime ministers of Poland, Germany, Italy, Spain and Hungary have signed the letter.

On 3 May 2005 the European Commission responded with an announcement that it will boost its policy of preserving and exploiting Europe’s written and audiovisual heritage. The Commission plans to issue a communication by July outlining the stakes involved and identifying the obstacles to using written and audiovisual archives in the European Union. The communication will be accompanied by a proposal for a Recommendation aimed at enlisting all the public players concerned and facilitating public-private partnerships in the task of digitising the European heritage.

The French initiative is perceived as a counter initiative against the Google sponsorship of the digitalisation of 15 million books from the prestigious libraries of the universities of Harvard, Stanford and Michigan, the New York Public Library and the Bodleian in Oxford. The French press dubbed this move ‘omnigooglisation’ and expressed fear about the disappearance of French literature and culture from the Internet.

On 16 March 2005 Chirac asked Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and France’s National Library president Jean-Noel Jeanneney to study how collections in libraries in France and Europe could be put more widely and more rapidly on the internet. They produced a general statement that was signed by national libraries in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden. The British National Library has given its implicit support to the move, without signing the motion, while Cyprus and Malta have agreed verbally to the text. Portugal is also set to approve it.

Open letter Chirac to Commission and Presidency (in French, 28.04.2005)

Europe rallies against Google library (28.04.2005)

Press release European Commission (03.05.2005)