Principle of free library services

Subject: Principle of free library services
From: Barbara Schleihagen (
Date: ti 24 kesä   1997 - 12:16:58 EEST

EBLIDA came across the following written question by Finnish MEP Heidi
Hautala to the European Commission was answered by Mr Bangemann (!) in a
remarkable way with reference to the ECUP+ concerted action. Although the
question was already asked on 9 December 1996, and the answer given on 28
January 97, it is only now published in the Official Journal. It is a
wonderful example of European Parliament's support for libraries, and
although a bit longer, here the full question and answer:

Subject: Principle of free library services

There is a long tradition of public libraries in the Nordic countries.
Every citizen has hitherto been able to borrow books free of charge.
Reports have recently appeared in the Finnish media giving cause for
concern about a possible threat to this valuable principle.

According to experts in the library field, the text of an agreement will be
proposed at the forthcoming intergovernmental meeting on copyright in
Geneva in December (she refers to WIPO, B.S.) which will threaten the free
availability in libraries of information stored on networks and in
electronic form, including electronic recordings. Experts claim that this
proposal, if put into practice, could mean that in the long term all
information will have to be paid for, and will thus be available only to
those who can afford it.

Does the proposal drafted for the international meeting represent the
Commission's and the Member States' opinion? What does the Commission
propose to do to protect the principles of free public libraries in future
and to ensure that this principle applies to all information, in what ever
form it is recorded?

Answer given by Mr Bangemann on behalf of the Commission on 28 January 1997:

The Commission is well aware of the tradition of free access to information
practised by libraries throughout Europe. Indeed, in the context of the
libraries sector of the Telematics application programme detailed analyses
have been made in recent years of the exemptions and limitations to
copyright under which libraries in the Member States provide access to
information in various forms.

Furthermore, recognising the importance of the role of libraries in the
information society, the Commission has been examining carefully the
implications of copyright for both users and rights owners in the area of
electronic documents and networked services. Indeed, one of the key
accompanying measures under Telematics for libraries is the European
Copyright User Platform which provides support for the library users'
community. By promoting dialogue betweeen the various interests involved
and encouraging initiatives which bring together publishers, technical
partners and libraries, the Commission hopes to build consensus on ways of
achieving a balanced approach on these complex yet socially and
economically crucial matters.

Best wishes,
Barbara Schleihagen

Barbara Schleihagen, Director
Heidi Grootscholten, EU Policy Officer
P.O. Box 43300
NL-2504 AH The Hague
Tel: +31-70-309 06 08
Fax: +31-70-309 07 08

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