Imagine a world where every book on every shelf across the world had different usage terms and conditions – this is the reality of the digital world we now live in.


Licensing Briefing Document

IFLA, along with Copyright for Creativity, EBLIDA, LIBER and Communia, hosted a breakfast meeting for MEPs and their advisors at the European Parliament on May 6th 2015. The meeting tackled the relationship between copyright and licenses, and showed that licensing is not the solution to the problems that libraries have in making available material to their users in the digital age. Instead, exceptions and limitations to copyright must be updated to ensure that libraries can carry out their essential function in society.

Libraries accept that licences are part of the modern information ecosystem, setting the terms for how we use and reuse copyright works. However, licences which override copyright law undermine and restrict creativity and innovation. This is because the access and use of digital content is governed in nearly all countries around the world not by what national copyright laws say, but what a private and often confidential contract imposes.

The meeting was an essential reaction to recent discussions, particularly in Europe, that focused on licensing as a replacement for updated copyright exceptions. It featured an update on current European copyright reform discussions from Maria Martin-Prat, Head of the Copyright Unit at DG Connect, followed by presentations from Paul Ayris, Director of Library Services at University College London, Jill Cousins, Executive Director at Europeana, and Alec Tarkovski from Creative Commons Poland. All presentations pointed out that replacing copyright law entirely with licensing restricts access to, and reuse of, digital knowledge and is hampering research and creativity.

Later on the 6th of May the European Union launched its new Digital Single Market strategy, which promises a more modern copyright law for the EU and its member states by the end of 2016. IFLA, along with its European members, are strongly advocating for a fit-for-purpose copyright framework with exceptions that will facilitate digital preservation, eLending, and cross-border transfer of information to support library users’ research. Any exceptions or limitations are introduced into copyright law to should be mandatory and may not be overridden by contracts. Licenses have their place, but are no substitute for balanced copyright.

For further background information on the issues caused by licenses, please see the briefing document produced by IFLA, LIBER and EBLIDA for the meeting.