EU Bemoans Lack Of Digital Copyright Standards

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Fragmented rules are holding back the spread of digital content through the region, EU authorities say

The lack of common European rules when it comes to copyright on digital media is holding back the digitisation of useful content and the potential of online learning resources, EU authorities have warned.

In a statement released this week, EU commissioner for Information Society and Media Vivane Reding said that the development of Europe’s Europeana digital library was being stymied by the lack of standards across the region when it comes to the copyright of digitised media such as books and the commission was launching a consultation on the issue to try and come up with a solution.

“The digitisation of books is a Herculean task but also opens up cultural content to millions of citizens in Europe and beyond. This is why I welcome first efforts made by Member States and their cultural institutions to fill the shelves of Europe’s digital library,” said Reding. “However, I find it alarming that only five percent of all digitised books in the EU are available on Europeana.”

Reding added that almost half of the books, 47 percent, were contributed by France while other countries lag behind. The UK is in fourth place behind German and Netherlands contributing just 7.9 percent of the works in the digital library.

“I also note that almost half of Europeana’s digitised works have come from one country alone, while all other Member States continue to under-perform dramatically,” said Reding. “To me this shows, above all, that Member States must stop envying progress made in other continents and finally do their own homework.”

According to the EU, there are around 4.6 million digitised objects on Europeana, compared to 2 million nine months ago. “New items that have been added include: a collection of 70 incunabula (books printed with the earliest printing techniques) from the library of Catalonia, a 1572 edition of ‘Os Lusíadas’ by Lu ís de Camo %u1EBDs, the national poem of Portugal, and footage of the Friedrichstraße in Berlin from 1913, from the Association des Cinémathèques Européennes,” the EU stated.

But despite the progress made, Reding said that the development of the project was being held back by a lack of clear standards on the dissemination of digitised media. “Earlier this year a French aggregator had to withdraw photographs from Europeana, since it only had the right to disseminate the material on French territory,” the EC stated.

The Commission’s consultation on the future of Europeana and the digitisation of books will run until 15 November 2009 and will address issues such as “how can it be ensured that digitised material can be made available to consumers EU-wide? Should there be better cooperation with publishers with regard to in-copyright material? Would it be a good idea to create European registries for orphan and out-of print works? How should Europeana be financed in the long term?”, the commission stated.

Google has been embroiled in a long running battle with publishers over its book digitisation plan. Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon recently joined a new coalition to influence the US Department of Justice to force Google to revise the deal it has with some publishers.