Every year, hundreds of thousands of new titles enter the European book market – but only a few turn into real bestsellers. A good number of them eventually go out of commerce as publishers cannot maintain the costs of marketing and storing books in print if they do not continue to sell well. While publishers are bringing more books back into commerce through e-books and print on demand, many titles still remain in the collections and archives of Europe's libraries.
This situation is to change soon as Michel Barnier, European Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, presided recently over the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in which libraries, publishers, authors, and their collecting societies have agreed to a set of Key Principles that will give European libraries and similar cultural institutions the possibility to digitise and make available on line out-of-commerce books and learned journals which are part of their collections. The Key Principles contained in the MoU will encourage and underpin voluntary licensing agreements while fully respecting copyright and recognising that right holders should always have the first option to digitise and make available an out-of-commerce work. The MoU is an essential part of the efforts of stakeholders and of the Commission to address the needs of mass digitisation by European cultural institutions
Commissioner Barnier said: “Today’s agreement marks an important step forward by stakeholders to find viable and concrete solutions to further the creation of Europe’s digital libraries and ensure access to our rich cultural heritage. I strongly believe this is a clear sign that, through dialogue and taking into account the specific needs of specific sectors, it is possible to reach negotiated solutions to surmount copyright issues in the digital era.”
The signatories also expressed their satisfaction with the outcome of the stakeholder dialogue. They include Dr. Pirjo Hiidenmaa, President of the European Writers' Council (EWC); Fergal Tobin, President of the Federation of European Publishers (FEP); and Magdalena Vinent, President of the International Federation of Reprographic Rights Organisations (IFRRO).