​Next Wednesday, all of the European Parliament’s 751 Members will have the opportunity to amend the draft Directive on copyright. In doing so, they will send a message to Europe’s citizens, teachers, creators and researchers. 

Crucially, Wednesday’s discussion and vote is the last opportunity for a truly open and transparent discussion on this legislation. The version that comes out will go into ‘trilogue’ discussions behind closed doors between the Parliament, Member States and the Commission.

So what message should MEPs to send to libraries and their users?

Research and Innovation

To date, Europe has taken a leading role in promoting open science internationally. Open science brings major benefits in terms of efficiency (reducing the risk of duplicating studies), transparency (avoiding fraud and promoting reproducibility) and access (you don’t need to be registered at a major institution to read the results).

However, it has been a slower mover in promoting exciting new technologies such as text and data mining, thanks to inconsistency in copyright approaches. There are those who would like to keep things that way, making the right to mine subject to additional payments and permissions.

Moreover, there are risks that the repositories that provide a vital infrastructure for open access will be subject to the same sort of regulation as major Internet platforms, potentially putting them out of business.

MEPs should send the message that Europe is consistent in its support of open science. They can facilitate a key emerging technology by ensuring that text and data mining is not restricted by unnecessary copyright rules and regulation. They can ensure that the scientific repositories that provide the backbone of open access are not forced to go to court when a user uploads the wrong version of an article. And they can ensure that documents used in teaching or which have been preserved can still be used for research, as well as reject the creation of new barriers to the use of articles and journals.

Education and Learning

Education will be a particular focus at the United Nations next year as part of the ongoing 2030 Agenda. It is, of course, at the heart of any policy aimed at supporting development at the individual and community level. Libraries are a key player in achieving this, both as a complement to schools during childhood, and then as a primary provider of lifelong learning to adults.

The right teaching resources can make a major difference. Publishers have long produced textbooks, but teachers – both in schools, and in libraries and other places – are increasingly looking to use other materials, as well as to create their own, specially adapted to the needs of their students.

The draft Directive has raised the question whether even the smallest uses of other documents – images, articles, videos – in the classroom should be subject to licensing. It has also opened the possibility of different rules applying to digital and more ‘traditional’ uses.

IFLA calls on MEPs to send the message that Europe wants all educators to be able to do the best for all learners. To do this, they should ensure that teachers do not need to pay extra to make basis use of articles, images, videos and other material in their teaching. They should make it clear that it is the act of educating, not the place where it takes place that matters, and call for the same rules to apply to both physical and digital uses.

Culture and Heritage

In the European Year of Cultural Heritage, there have been many reminders of the richness and diversity of European culture. Libraries play a vital role in preserving the creativity of the past, as well as promoting the creativity of the future.

The right copyright laws are essential for this work. They can ensure that libraries are free to take preservation copies of the works to which they have access. They can save money by allowing libraries to work across borders on digitisation projects. And they can give libraries the space to encourage their users to create and share their own creations.

However, the reforms could also impose new rules that keep books and other materials locked away until they become public domain, or even prevent libraries from taking preservation copies without permission or payment.

IFLA calls on MEPs to send the message that Europe believes that culture and creativity should be accessible for all. To do this, they should ensure that libraries’ have a clear right to make preservation copies of works, and that as far as possible, they should be able to give access. They should also protect the possibility to use Internet platforms to share original content and ideas.

What can you do?

  • Contact your MEP! You can download a template text for an e-mail here, and a list of Members of the European Parliament, organised by country. Translate the e-mail (if necessary), adapt it (if you want) and send it on!​

  • Join the movement on social media! Use the hashtags #copyright4libraries and #fixcopyright!

  • Encourage colleagues to do the same! It is vital that MEPs hear as many local voices as possible, underlining that libraries need the right copyright!

  • Read more about IFLA's positions on the different elements of the copyright reform. See also a brief prepared by the Association of European Research Libraries (LIBER) on the need to ensure institutional and educational repositories are not treated in the same way as major internet platforms.