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The European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations is an independent umbrella association of library, information, documentation and archive associations and institutions in Europe.

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Proposal for discussion at the Comité des Sâges’ public hearing - Orphan Works, Issues and Solutions

Issues and Solutions

EBLIDA, the European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations, recommends a solution of the Orphan Works problem along the lines described in this paper. 

Introduction

It has become a political goal of European culture policy to establish a European database or information system, Europeana, giving online access to European cultural products. For this project to succeed, it would require digitisation of European books, journals and other culture products on a massive scale. 

If Europeana shall contain works published in recent times, i.e. works for which the term of copyright protection has expired, this requires either 

  • an exception or other sort of legal mechanism allowing the digitisation and making available to the public of the works, or 
  • a license agreement with the authors and other rights holders, or organisations, e.g. collecting societies, representing these rights holders. 

The European copyright legislation does not contain a specific exception permitting libraries to digitise protected works and make them available to the public outside the library, and in the majority of EU Member States, collecting societies can only enter license agreements on behalf of their members. But, how is it possible to clear the rights of works of authors and other rights holders who are not members of a colleting society and cannot be located? That is the Orphan Works problem. 

Libraries do not want to digitise “orphan works” as such. They want to digitise certain types or classes of protected works, some of which may be orphan. The typical digitisation projects concern mass digitisation, i.e. digitisation of types or classes of works which are no longer subject to commercial exploitation. The clearing of rights in these cases concerns two “copyright relevant” actions: digitisation and making available to the public. 

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