Deze tentoonstelling was voor PL2020 ook een mooie gelegenheid om een discussie te voeren met MEP's over de nieuwe copyright voorstellen die de Europese Commissie heeft voorbereid. IFLA, LIBER en EBLIDA hadden van te voren al een position paper gemaakt, en nadat het voorstel van de commissie er lag ook nog stevige aanbevelingen gedaan om tot echte hervormingen te komen. De commissie brandt zijn vingers niet aan een herziening van het copyright ten aanzien van e-books en het kunnen uitlenen er van door openbare bibliotheken onder de regels van de huidige auteursrecht (ik zeg het wat gesimplificeerd). Ze wachten daar op de uitspraak van het Europese hof van Justitie, die uitspraak zal doen op 10 november in een rechtszaak die de VOB heeft aangespannen.
Om het verhaal van de bibliotheken, wetenschappelijk, universitair, nationaal en openbaar kracht bij te zetten werden o.a. Stuart Hamilton van IFLA, Ben White van de British Library, Inge van Nieuwerburgh van Universiteit Gent en ondergetekende aan het woord gelaten. Praktijkervaringen delen met de aanwezige MEP's en/of hun assistenten. Hieronder mijn verhaal (in het Engels).
Dear members of parliament and all others that are here,
My name is Erna Winters, director of Public Library Kennemerwaard. A booming library 30 kilometers north of Amsterdam, with 130 employees, 14 branches, working for 225.000 inhabitants of 4 municipalities. Our libraries have nearly 52.500 patrons and nearly 1 million visitors per year.
First let me take you back around 40 years ago to a small town in the eastern part of the Netherlands. There was a girl, child from a labourer. That girl went to the local public library, and discovered the world there. That public library was the threshold to education, learning new ideas, broadening her horizon. That girl is standing here today before you, as a living proof that libraries have great influence on people’s lives, and open doors for people who otherwise have no access to knowledge and information.
Libraries have the task to give free access to information to all people. This is based on the human rights of freedom of speech and expression and Dutch legislation. Dutch law requires that the public library plays a vital role in society by performing societal tasks necessary to have an educated population. On the side of the individual, in order to be able to express an opinion one needs to be able to take notice of and be able to handle all information that is needed to form this opinion.
In the times before internet and online services libraries fulfilled this task by lending books to patrons. The exception in Dutch copyright law based on the European guidelines provides libraries the legal right to do so. Libraries pay a remuneration fee for each book that is borrowed. To give you an idea, on a yearly basis our library pays around € 200.000,- lending rights for books and other media. All public libraries in the Netherlands pay over € 11 million lending rights annually.
Libraries select based on their knowledge of their community which books they will purchase for their local collection. Based on rules of interlibrary lending in the Dutch library network, a citizen can always get a copy of a book even when it is not available in their local library.
Now, while internet and digitization completely changed the way information is distributed, libraries face a major problem in performing their legal task to give free access to information to all citizens. People have an increasing demand for e-content and e-books. The growth in sales of e-books doesn’t go as fast as was first expected. Last year 5 % of the books that were sold in the Netherlands were e-books. Overall we can say that e-books sales and e-books loans are rising in the Netherlands.
citizens expect libraries to keep up with the development of digitization. Libraries are more than willing to take up this challenge. The e-bookplatform of the Dutch libraries can boast 1,3million loans in 2015, and already the same amount in the first half year in 2016, and we’re still counting. 1 million of all 17 million Dutch people has an e-bookaccount. This ebookplatform in my opinion has two big advantages:
1. By having a legal platform for ebooks, accessible for every Dutch citizen that has an account at the e-library, we make it easy and affordable. And it helps to prevent piracy. By having a legal alternative people do not have to turn to illegal copies of e-books.
2. All the titles available on the platform have been paid for. Publishers receive a negotiated fee for the license. So we are a part of the market for the publishers, and judging by the numbers of loans and what publishers get paid for it, I would say it doesn’t do them any harm.
Although we are very satisfied with the numbers of e-books that are borrowed, we are not happy with what we can buy. You would think that in an open market you could buy anything you like at a certain price. This however sadly is not the case.
Within the current copyright laws e-books are not considered to be a book. It is a licensed service. That means that libraries have to negotiate with every publisher on price, conditions, lending periods, how many lendings, etc. If negotations fail to have a result, libraries are not allowed to purchase this e-book. Our patrons, like all European citizens, are deprived of the information in those books. At the counter of the libraries the staff has to answer patrons that wonder why a popular book that they want to lend as an e-book is not available. Their answer is, when they want to keep it simple without going into the details of a very complicated issue of copyright regulation, is that we as libraries are not allowed to buy the book and lend it out. That’s something that an average patron does not understand, and frankly I can’t blame them.
Libraries are always associated with lending books but actually this is just an instrument in the role libraries play for development of people and society. Literacy and specifically illiteracy is an increasing problem. In Europe aprox 75 million people are unable to read and write on a level required to be able to participate. Now, with thousands of refugees entering Europe the number of people that need to learn our languages will grow. Libraries rise to the occasion and are reaching out to the refugees with special programs. With an overall good working set of copyright rules libraries all over Europe could help these refugees easier to have access to literature in their own language, as well as good learning materials. Another important group that we would be able to help are the working immigrants, Europeans that travel through Europe for work and that are deprived of a good selection of e-material at the local library of the town that they have their temporary residence.
We as libraries stand for the human right of free access to information for the inhabitants of Europe. Europe’s economic ambition to be a leading party when it comes to innovation, knowledge and creativity requires literate, educated and skilled people. For that you need to give more room to creativity to support that economic growth. This is one of the issues of the Euopean Commission in reforming the Digital Single Market. Copyright as it is now is a barrier to support this ambition of the European Commission.
What we need of you, members of the European Parliament is to reform the copyright law. I, speaking for the visitors, users and patrons of all European libraries, strongly plea to place e-books under the same copyrights as paper books. We need a flourishing bookmarket and production of many good books. And writers, publishers, and booksellers who make a fair income. In the paper book world libraries in The Netherlands are roughly responsible for 12% of the sales. So libraries are part of the book market. There has to be a fair remuneration for the rightholders, which is the case in the copyright rules for paper books. By doing so, all citizens of Europe can have access to all information through their public libraries. And thus make it possible for all Europeans to develop themselves , to contribute to their local community, and to add to a prosperous, creative and innovative Europe.
Dear members of Parliament, we know copyright is a matter with a lot of different concerns and interests. We fully support the idea of a fair balance in copyright for right holders and consumers. We, the Dutch libraries, are also involved in a court case at de European Court of Justice. We are awaiting the judgment later this autumn. We do not only ask you to take action, we ourselves are also taking steps to make progress in this difficult process.
By reforming the copyright into the digital age the next ten year old girl, daughter of a labourer will still have the opportunity to become what she wants to be…. a scientist, a publisher, a member of the European parliament, a writer or maybe even a librarian…
Het was leuk om voor een aantal Europarlementariërs te spreken (ik kreeg zelfs applaus ;-) met een zaal verder gevuld met Europese bibliotheekcollega's. En wat vooral leerzaam was de ontmoetingen met de Nederlandse Europarlementariërs en met hen in gesprek te raken over de rol van de bibliotheek in en voor de samenleving.