Helsinki, June 24, 1998
There are reasons to be concerned about the future of access to information
- in libraries
- on the Internet
- in schools and universities
- at home.
The draft EU Copyright Directive (of 10.12.97) is an immediate danger
because it does not guarantee reasonable access to and fair use of
copyright protected information. For instance, the draft directive would
not give libraries the right to let their visitors read materials on a
screen without a licence from the publisher. For commercial or other
reasons, the publisher (rightsowner) could choose not to let the library
have a single copy of a work. Understandably, library associations
throughout Europe have reacted sharply, and are now doing their best to
lobby for a different Directive on copyright.
The proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI) is another
problem because it treats "intellectual property" as merchandise, which
could be owned by a restricted group of investors. Such a development is
not in the public interest. Nor does it correspond to our notion
of the authors' rights. Not surprisingly, societies of authors have
demanded that literary and artistic rights be excluded from the scope of
application of MAI. They have also rightly protested against the
disappearance of cultural identities, which would be accelerated by a MAI
encompassing literary and artistic works.
There is more. We also have to worry about the the principle of public
access to official records. The more official documents are available
digitally, the more publicly accessible they ought to be, we believe. Yet
this accessibility is far from self-evident, if the rules and procedures
for making the information accessible are not themselves clear enough, and
if the public debate on the subject is lacking. The situation in this
respect varies from one country to another. Fortunately, there are
journalists and politicians who do their best to keep the issue of public
access warm, as it should always be.
Last, but not least, we must see to the vast area of information, which
falls into the public domain, i.e. information which is no longer
copyrighted, or is not copyrighted today. Much of this is available via
the public library, and increasingly also on the Internet. This is good. But,
can we feel reassured that the Internet (and the libraries) will not be locked
up by commercial interests? To what extent is the new digital
public domain legally protected?
Together, the aforementioned concerns constitute one big political issue.
Let us do something to make the movement on the Right to Information
stronger and more visible.
I propose that we (see the enclosed list of contacted persons and organisations)
gather at the Finnish Institute in London, in September or October, to a round-table
discussion. Before the precise date can be fixed, we need to hear about Your preferences.
I will cooperate with the Finnish Institute to raise the money needed
to arrange the round-table in London.
During the weeks and months before the round-table discussion, we need to
start discussion on, at least, the following subjects:
1. How to change and ameliorate the EU-directive on copyright?
How to support the libraries?
2. A movement on the right to information (?) How to bring creators and
users together to defend common interests? Is there a need for a European movement or should
this movement be transcontinental from the beginning?
3. The constitutional protection of the right to information in the
EU-countries. The legal protection of the Internet.
Enclosed, please find the draft of an appeal which is constructed on these
themes. This should set off the discussion. Don't forget to tell me,
if/when you would like to personally sign the appeal! The timetable of the
EU-directive makes it urgent to launch appeals as soon as possible. Once
the appeal has been made public, we will make it possible for others to
sign it via the web.
For many of us it will hopefully be convenient to participate in the discussion
by e-mail. Therefore, I will proceed to creating a mailing list for our discussion.
The list will have the address email@example.com. To join, send the message
subscribe saveaccess to firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be
automatically notified about your subscription. You are also welcome to
ask me to add your e-mail address to the list.
Mikael Book * Katto-Meny * Tallbergink 1/39 * FIN-00180 Helsinki
E-mail email@example.com * Phone +358-9-6947730 * Fax +358-9-27090369
gsm 040 5511 324 * Web http://www.kaapeli.fi/book/