New European Commission Pilot Project to Investigate Digital Solutions for Copyright Issues

The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the multiple copyright issues that libraries and educational institutions have already been facing for many years. Recognising the toll this has taken on students’ education as well as on the conduct and delivery of research projects, the European Commission has started work on a pilot project. This undertaking will investigate the need for legal and digital solutions that facilitate access to copyright-protected works.

The project was put forward by Member of the European Parliament Patrick Breyer, with input from one of our KR21 policy committee members Felix Reda.

The three main areas the project will focus on are:

  • E-book lending in practice,
  • How copyright exceptions can be improved to help libraries respond to emergencies like the pandemic, and
  • Solving copyright problems in the context of distance education and research.

e-book lending in practice

The Rental and Lending Directive 2006/115 permits the lending of e-books under the public lending exception in EU member state law. Nevertheless, problems continue to prevent libraries in Europe from using this exception. The new project will be examining legal, technical, and economic improvements that could be put in place to allow libraries to genuinely benefit from the public lending exception for e-books.

Photo by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash
Photo by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash

Digital but not online

Directive (EU) 2019/790 on Copyright in the Digital Single Market introduced an EU-wide exception that allows libraries to digitise parts of their collections. These are not made available online without permission from rights holders. The Copyright  Directive (2001/29/EC) allows EU Member States to introduce copyright exceptions that allow libraries and archives to make available their digital collections through “dedicated terminals” on the premises of the institutions. However, not online or even on readers’ own devices while on the premises. Conditions imposed by lockdowns highlight the need to update these exceptions to the needs of the online environment. 

The project will be assessing whether legal changes in the EU framework are needed in order to give EU Member States more flexibility to rapidly address access needs when libraries’ premises are closed to the public.


Digital learning

A third focus point that the project aims to address relates to the copyright issues that have arisen in the context of education and research at a distance. As schools and universities locked down for several months, they had to rapidly improvise digital learning and collaborative work solutions. In some cases, they had to turn to solutions from commercial vendors. Research from this project will hopefully uncover legal and technical solutions to resolve growing digital needs in the field of distance education and research.

The interest in the project shows that the European Commission recognises current copyright law imperfections, and the vital role libraries play in supporting education and research. It will hopefully encourage dialogue between libraries, advocates, and policy makers at the European level. Do you have any questions on the study or wish to contribute your research? Please contact Felix Reda.

Photo by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash