Extended collective licensing is increasingly proposed as a solution to problems faced by libraries in getting permissions to digitise and use large numbers of works. But it can only work if there are organisations in place to manage it. Draft data from an IFLA survey suggests that this is still far from being the case.

Collective management refers to the process of having one organisation that collects money for uses of works – for example for songs on radio or TV programmes, for photos in books or newspapers, or for uploading works in library collections to the internet. 

It can make a major contribution to member authors’ livelihoods and libraries’ operations by offering a simple means of clearing rights, and collecting and distributing royalties.

In its extended form, a collective management organisation (CMO) can collect money for use of works by non-members, and work to distribute this money subsequently.

This can make a real difference in the case of works that are no longer on sale, who may no longer be members of the CMO or be easy to contact. Such works – known as out-of-commerce works – make up a major part of library collections. 

Extended Collective Licensing (ECL) has therefore been proposed in the European Union as a means of enabling libraries to give access to collections of works which are no longer available elsewhere.

IFLA has already published a background paper exploring some of the conditions that may need to be in place for ECL to work. However, the most fundamental is that a CMO exists in the country and category (such as books, photos, films) in question. 

Survey data released today indicates that this is far from being the case. Even where CMOs do exist, they are not necessarily offering the licences that libraries need.

This data shows that without a further step – such as an exception that applies where CMOs do not exist – the EU’s plans – as well as ECL projects elsewhere – are likely to make little difference. 

Download the initial [pdf | word], as well as the script [pdf] and slides [pdf] of a presentation given at CopyCamp 2018. All comments and corrections to the data are welcome – contact us if you have suggestions.