Press release of the European Commission on the Signature of the MoU on Out of Commerce works
1. What are out-of-commerce works?
Out-of-commerce works are works that are still protected by copyright but are no longer commercially available because the authors and publishers have decided neither to publish new editions nor to sell copies through the customary channels of commerce. In the past works such as books were referred to as being either “in-print” or “out-of-print”. Today, with the advent of electronic channels of commerce, the term “out-of-commerce” is used (with electronic publishing a book will be "in commerce" even if only available in electronic form).
2. What is the problem with out-of-commerce books in the EU? What does this have to do with copyright?
While publishers may not have a financial interest in maintaining older and less commercially successful books in commerce, libraries – in particular when we talk about those books which they have in their archives and which are part of the cultural heritage of the country, region or city where they are situated – may want to digitise and make them available online. For many libraries this is part of their public interest mission, made possible thanks to digital technology and networks. For the European citizen, this is an unprecedented opportunity to have access to books that would have otherwise fallen into oblivion. Libraries do not own the copyright to the works contained in their collections. Therefore, they must seek the permission of the right holders – authors and publishers – before they can digitise out-of-commerce works and put them online as part of their digital library projects.
3. What is the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) about?
The MoU is a sector-specific stakeholder-driven agreement negotiated amongst organisations representing libraries on the one hand and publishers, authors and their collecting societies on the other. It contains the Key Principles that these parties will follow to license the digitisation and making available (including across borders in the EU) of books or learned journals that are out-of-commerce. It aims to encourage voluntary collective licences.
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