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Libraries can scan books without authors knowing

by on18 June 2014

EU ruling

The Advocate General of the European Union's Court of Justice has ruled that it is possible for libraries to scan books without seeking the author, or publisher’s permission. The case concerns a dispute between the Technical University of Darmstadt and a German publishing house, Eugen Ulmer.

The publishing house wanted to stop the university from digitising a book it holds in its library collection published by Eugen Ulmer and then providing it from electronic reading points. Students could then print the book or save it on a USB stick and/or take those reproductions out of the library.

Advocate General Niilo Jääskinen considers that the EU copyright directive does not prevent Member States from granting libraries the right to digitise the books from their collections, if their being made available to the public by dedicated terminals requires it. That may be the case where it is necessary to protect original works which, although still covered by copyright, are old, fragile or rare. That may also be the case where the work in question is consulted by a large number of students and its photocopying might result in disproportionate wear.

The Advocate General said that the directive permits not the digitisation of a collection in its entirety, but only the digitisation of individual works.

“It is particularly important not to opt to use dedicated terminals where the sole purpose of doing so is to avoid the purchase of a sufficient number of physical copies of the work,” he wrote.

Jääskinen said the directive does not allow the users of dedicated terminals to save the works made available to them on a USB stick.

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