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    Digital Library Europeana Said To Be Europe’s Answer to Google Books Settlement

    Published on 28 August 2009 @ 7:36 pm

    By for Intellectual Property Watch

    Google’s settlement in the United States of copyright infringement claims by authors and book publishers faces strong opposition from European publishers. The deal does not apply to books outside the US and one Google official has suggested the need for a similar service in Europe. Could digital library Europeana be the solution? A 28 August European Commission policy statement addressed that concern and others.

    The 29 October 2008 settlement ended class-action litigation brought by book authors and publishers over claims Google Book Search violated copyright laws by digitising millions of protected books (IPW, Copyright Policy, 30 October 2008). The deal is expected to make millions of in-copyright, out-of-print books available online, give their authors control over, and payment for, access to them, and fund an independent Book Rights Registry to distribute payments, locate rights holders and allow IP owners to opt in and out of the project, the parties said.

    It is subject to approval by a US federal court, which set 4 September 2009 as the deadline for comments, objections or opting out of the agreement.

    The settlement sparked strong criticism from groups such as the Booksellers Association of the UK and Ireland, which said last November that it fears Google’s “gateway position,” if abused, could “create a de facto monopoly.” The UK Society of Authors rejects any system that allows material to be uploaded onto databases without prior permission from its author, it said in July.

    Publishers are committed to making their works widely available but Google’s solution is not deemed desirable or necessary in Europe, UK Publishers Association Policy and Communications Head Benjamin King told Intellectual Property Watch.

    Book Search Coming to Europe?

    The settlement has stirred up a “variety of controversy, commentary and review” ahead of the US court’s October approval hearing, William Echikson, Google senior communications manager in Brussels, noted in a 21 July Wall Street Journal article. At the heart of the debate, he wrote, “is a challenge European governments are themselves working to resolve: how to open up access to the world of knowledge contained in books.”

    Books that are in copyright but out of print are the trickiest category and make up the majority of the world’s books, Echikson wrote. Google’s deal will dramatically expand access to out-of-print books in the US but will “mean little for Europe,” he said. “The development of a similar innovative service in Europe requires cooperation from technology companies and a myriad of rights holders,” but would benefit European authors and publishers and give Europeans greater access to the world’s books, he wrote.

    Over 50 percent of Google’s traffic now comes from outside the US and the company’s goal is to make all its products and services global, a spokesman said. The search engine plans to “extend the benefits of this agreement to international countries” and is actively working with rights holders to do so, he said. However, it is premature to discuss either the details of the US services resulting from settlement or how the regime might work abroad, he said.

    What Google is trying to do in the US and wants to do in Europe is to obtain a licence to commercialise out-of-print books without getting permission from rights holders, said University of California at Berkeley Law Professor Pamela Samuelson. It is doing that in the US by means of the class-action settlement process but needs a different tactic in Europe, she said. Governments could decide to say yes to Google by passing legislation, collecting societies might cooperate, but it is not easy to get obtain a blanket licence from all rights holders, she said.

    Many European authors, particularly in Germany, object to Google’s actions because scanning books first and getting permission later “flips the usual default rule of copyright on its head,” Samuelson said. “Google is using the seeming fait accompli of the US settlement to extract from Europe a permission to do the same thing so that Europeans can benefit” from the deal, she said: “The devil is in the details here.”

    EU Digitisation Lagging

    Digital library Europeana, not Google, is the answer to making European culture accessible online, Federation of European Publishers Director Anne Bergman-Tahon said in an interview.

    Europeana, launched by the European Commission and national culture ministers on 20 November 2008, offers direct access to digitised books, audio and film material, photographs, paintings, maps, manuscripts, newspapers and archival documents. It now has 4.6 million digitised works but fragmented European copyright laws and slow digitisation by many countries is holding it back, the Commission said in a 28 August policy statement on Europeana’s next steps.

    Friday’s policy statement supports an approach that seeks to be open to private-sector initiatives and technological innovation, and looks with interest on what Google’s doing about orphan works, while at the same time it presses governments to get their cultural material digitised for Europeana.

    The Commission wants Europeans to have 10 million objects accessible by 2010. One key challenge is to include in-copyright material in order to avoid a “20th century black hole” in which a great deal of cultural material from before 1900, but not much from the recent past, is accessible online, it said. But different licensing arrangements across Europe risk turning the content into “national silos on the internet,” she said.

    Orphan works are another priority, the Commission said. It asked member states in 2006 to deal with the situation but there has been little progress, it said. The Google settlement has raised the issue’s visibility because the book rights registry it funds will be used to help locate rights owners. The EU finances the Accessible Registries of Rights Information and Orphan Works (ARROW) project, but the Commission said it “looks with interest” to new solutions being tested by Google and US rights holders for making orphan works more widely available.

    With only five percent of digitised books in the EU available on Europeana, governments must stop “envying progress made in other continents and finally do their own homework,” Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding said.

    The ‘Future is Europeana’

    Publishers are doing just that, Bergman-Tahon said. They are building a Web repository for recent books and digitising some out-of-print works valuable to the publishing sector, she said. They want a public-private partnership to give libraries and citizens access to those works through Europeana or some other pan-European initiative and national libraries, not via a link with one commercial company, she said. Some publishers may choose to work with Google, but that will be done through individual contracts, she said.

    Germany’s answer to Google, for example, is Libreka.de, she said. The website currently provides access only to in-copyright books in German, but publishers will next digitise their backlists after securing permission from each author, a process that takes time, she said. Libreka has an agreement with the national library on how to deal with orphan and out-of-print. materials, she said.

    “For me, the future is Europeana” for works that are out-of-copyright and, in some cases, out-of print, Bergman-Tahon said. For in-print content that will eventually be digitised, national services such as Libreka, where users can search for, purchase or rent works, are the way to go, she said.

    This is a very European road that will not look like the US solution, she said. It involves a combination of public and private partners who are not competitors, she said. The European publishers group will meet with Reding in September to prove they’re digitising cultural content in a much more inventive way than Google, she said.

    Europeana has the potential to be the “Google-like service Europe needs” but as part of a broader vision, said Europeana Marketing and Communications Manager Jonathan Purday. The EC has enabled Europeana to become operational and laid the foundations for an integrated platform providing access from museums, archives, libraries and audiovisual collections. But the digital library’s future “depends on countries scaling up their digitisation efforts” and unifying their fragmented legal framework, he said.

    When ARROW, Europeana and rules for dealing with orphan works are in place, Europe will have, in terms of user experience, a service similar to Google’s but with more checks and balances and without information being held by a single entity, King said.

    There is no competition between Europeana and Google’s book projects, Google European Copyright Policy manager Antoine Aubert wrote 28 August on the company’s public policy blog. The services are complementary, he said, and Google is working hard to broaden its cooperation with European libraries which form Europeana’s backbone. Italy’s Ministry for Culture recently announced its intent to work with Google to accelerate scanning of Italian-language books, he said. France is reportedly considering a similar move.

    The EC will hold a public hearing on 7 September to discuss the US settlement. In connection with its policy statement it is seeking input on Europeana’s future; the consultation document is here [pdf].

    Dugie Standeford may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

     

    Comments

    1. La Commission européenne veut lever les obstacles juridiques à la numérisation … et nous ? « :: S.I.Lex :: says:

      [...] Certes dans le contexte actuel, cette partie du discours de Viviane Reding a une importance certaine. Mais l’essentiel était ailleurs ! Et pour cerner véritablement la portée du geste de la Commission, il est nécessaire de ne pas s’arrêter à cette déclaration de presse et d’aller au texte même de la Communication. Chose que visiblement bien peu de monde a jugé bon de faire (il faut se tourner vers les médias étrangers pour trouver des commentaires moins superficiels : voir ici ou là). [...]


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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