(international appeal)

The right to information is under imminent threat right here in the information society.

The public libraries, the principle of public access to information, the right to share and communicate knowledge, indeed, the freedom of speech, are threatened. So are the rights of the author, in particular, the moral rights of identification and integrity.

The threat is inherent in the global market economy, which transforms the expressions of the human mind into merchandise, something to be bought and sold, but not to be shared. The threat is not caused by the ongoing, epoch-making digitalisation of information, nor is it caused by the Internet or the great new digital library of its World Wide Web. On the contrary, digital technology allows us both to facilitate access to information and to restrict and control that access. Alas, restriction and control, for the purpose of corporate profit-making, now seem to be taking the lead over the possibility of rebuilding and enlarging our common library.

The threat to the right to information is posed by a combination of ideological and political circumstances:

The threat is avoidable, the right to information can be reinforced by legislators and governments, if only the political will to do it is strong enough. Now is the time to create that political will.

We must act together in order to bring the proposed new EU directive on copyright [1] in harmony with the right to information of all the citizens of Europe. "Save future access to information now!", cries EBLIDA, the European Bureau of Library and Documentation Associations, a propos the draft of the new directive. We would all do well to open our minds to the voice from the library. [2] After all, do we have better specialists on information than our librarians?

Authors, artists, researchers, journalists and other creators of new information should feel concerned, and involve themselves in the issue of the right to information. On the other hand, as professionals they urgently need to guard their self-interest. The emerging, already dominant concept of copyright, which puts all essential informational rights squarely in the hands of the "owners of copyright", blurs any distinction between the author and the merchant. This concern is indeed eloquently formulated by SACD [3], the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers (Paris-Brussels-Montreal), which demands "that literary and artistic property rights be excluded from the scope of application of MAI" (the Multilateral Agreement on Investments proposed by the OECD).

Creators, intellectuals, librarians, political and social activists must unite in a European movement for the right to information.

In democratic society not only authors and scientists, but each individual citizen is, in principle, regarded an autonomous owner and processor of information. Unfortunately, the extended copyrights and intellectual property rights now drafted in the EU-directive and the MAI-agreement would reduce citizens to mere consumers of information., who are only allowed to 'vote with their wallets'. Democracy can only exist if information is shared, that is, owned by the community or by the whole society in its public sphere.

The borders of our common informational ground are threatened by commercial invasion, the very existence of the public domain is at stake.

The public domain, the use of copyrighted materials in the library and the Internet as a part of the public sphere, must be protected by our constitutions.


[1] Proposal for a Directive on the Harmonisation of Certain Aspects of Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society (10.12.1997)


[2] Save Future Access to Information Now! EBLIDA Position Paper on the proposed Directive on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the Information Society (March 1998).


[3] "A.M.I." c'est L'ENNEMI, brochure from SACD.



Mikael Böök * Katto-Meny * Tallbergink 1/39 * FIN-00180 Helsinki
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