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Advocate General backs libraries’ right to digitise



James Nurton, London


Advocate General Niilo Jääskinen, of the Court of Justice of the EU, argues that a member state may authorise libraries to digitise books without the consent of copyright holders

He gave his opinion today in a case concerning the EU Copyright Directive referred from Germany’s Bundesgerichtshof. The dispute is between the Technische Universität Darmstadt and publisher Eugen Ulmer.

Eugen Ulmer sought to prevent the university from digitising a book in its library collection and to prevent users from being able to print the book or save it on a USB stick via electronic reading points.

In the opinion, the Advocate General says that member states may grant libraries the right to digitise books in their collections, if their being made available to the public by dedicated terminals requires it. This may be the case where works are old, fragile or rare or where they could be damaged by photocopying.

But he adds that this only applies to the digitisation of individual works, not a collection in its entirety.

Additionally, he says that the Copyright Directive does not allow users of terminals to save the works on a USB stick (as that would be the creation of a private digital copy). But the printing of a work from a terminal is comparable to making a photocopy, and may be covered by the private copying exception.

The opinion is not yet published in English, but is available in most other European languages. A press statement from the Court summarises it.


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