Tag Archives: court

EU confirms that libraries can lend ebooks provided authors are fairly compensated

2016-11-13

Ebooks have been, and are being, lended by public libraries in many EU countries, but on November 10th, 2016 the EU Court of Justice decided that libraries really have the right to do so. The court regarded that the principles for lending paper books and ebooks are the same. The most important point for authors and publishers of digital books is that the court specifically stated that the authors must be fairly remunerated for library loans.
bookshelf, dictionaries
The case was brought to the EU Court of Justice by Dutch authors’ organization Stichting Leenrecht which collects remuneration for authors. The EU court, however, saw the big picture and stated in its press release:

“That conclusion is, moreover, borne out by the objective pursued by the directive, namely that copyright must adapt to new economic developments.”

The EU Court attitude is warmly welcomed, and hopefully spreads to EU nations as well. Authors’ rights to benefit from their work is the number one priority for everyone in the business, but at the same time, the way the rights are used must be developed as the digital era progresses.

The EU Court states:

“[e-book lending] has essentially similar characteristics to the lending of printed works. That is the case as regards the lending of a digital copy of a book under the ‘one copy, one user’ model.” And specifically reminds “… provided that authors obtain, at least, fair remuneration.”

Currently, there are many practices in EU countries how libraries deal with digital books. For instance, public libraries in Finland don’t compensate ebook rights holders anything when citizens lend their works. That’s why publishers and authors are very reluctant to make ebooks available via libraries – one of likely reasons that has prevented ebook market to emerge in the country. In Sweden, publishers can set the price per loan that libraries have to pay for each loan. If a publisher sets the loan price too high, libraries won’t make the book available, but when the price is right, everyone is happy (including citizens who couldn’t get enough of football star Zlatan’s biography).

Surprisingly, The Federation of European Publishers opposes EU Court’s ebook lending decision. The organization represents national publishers’ associations, which tends to mean big publishers. The organization’s concern seems to be (according to the press release) piracy: ebook lenders would loan ebooks only to crack the DRM and keep the books forever, and not return them to the library.

Two things for the Federation of European Publishers to consider: the same piracy risk is present in all ebooks purchased from bookstores, and it would be a good idea for the organization to get familiar with the ebook lending system in Sweden.

Google won the US Supreme Court case for making book extracts available for searching and viewing online

2016-04-20

On April 18th, 2016 the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Google in its long legal fight against the Authors Guild organization. The April 18 ruling means that the Supreme Court will not review the case that originally was filed in 2005 against Google by the Authors Guild.

The Authors Guild initiated the court case 11 years ago because the association believed (and still believes) that Google was violating copyright laws.

In 2004, Google started scanning books stored on the shelves of libraries, archives, universities and other places that had large book collections. The objective was nothing more or nothing less than to scan all the books of the world and make them searchable online. For Google, it was a mission of making all written information the humankind had created available to everyone. On the side, it could serve ads to visitors who were browsing the indexed books and make a profit.

Google started the project without asking for permissions from anyone. Google’s savvy engineers simply built clever and fast scanning machines for the job. Company’s huge data centers were ready to index and store everything that could be recovered from old (and new) books.

In the early days of the project, the U.S. based Authors Guild organization that looks after the interest of writers tried to negotiate with Google. The Guild wanted Google to stop scanning books or start paying royalties for authors whose books were not in public domain. Google declined, stating it only makes extracts available, but since then, the company has been in court in the US and in some other countries.

It has been estimated that Google had scanned 30 million books in 2012, and the work continues.

Now, however, Google has won the case, and that should be the end of it in the U.S.

google books herders boots

From the book The Herder’s Boots. http://klaava.com/the-herders-boots/

You can take a look at how Google Books works by visiting the Google search page and choosing Books. When you search, the results will be extracted from books only. This means not only old pritn books but also new ebooks. When, for instance, Klaava Media makes a new ebook available at Google Play online bookstore, it also automatically becomes searchable in Google Books. You can read random pages of a copyrighted work, but not the whole book in Google Books.

In Europe, EU kicked off the Europeana program in 2005 to preserve the cultural heritage of European countries. Europeana stores digitally works that have entered the public domain. It has archived more than 52 million books, artworks and other items so far. If you are interested in history, cultures or art, it is a highly recommended destination.

Europeana is run by the European Commission and hasn’t been in court because of suspected copyright violations.
europeana homepage

What does the Google vs. Authors Guild court ruling mean for authors? Not much. Perhaps some out-of-print books will be made available as ebooks because there is enough interest among audiences to read them. It should not be harmful for authors that brief extracts are available for searching and viewing. It helps book discovery and probably silences the urge to demand a share of revenue that Google makes from ads it may some day display with the book extracts.