EU Clarifies Rules for Electronic Book Lending

     (CN) – An adviser to the European Union’s high court on Thursday declared public libraries’ electronic book-lending to be treated as the modern equivalent of printed book-lending.
     In his opinion, Advocate General Maciej Szpunar advocated a “dynamic or evolving interpretation” of 2006 EU Directive that grants the exclusive right to allow or prohibit the rental or lending of books to their authors, with “fair renumeration” for the authors.
     Szpunar’s opinion is not available in English, but in a news release from the EU Court of Justice, he is quoted saying that making electronic books available to the public through public libraries “may indeed come within the scope of the directive on rental and lending rights.”
     Szpunar suggested the European Commission did not fully consider electronic lending in the 2006 directive due the “infancy” of the electronic book lending technology at the time of its drafting.
     Szpunar’s opinion stems from an April 2015 complaint filed in district court in the Hague by Dutch public library association Vereniging Openbare Bibliotheken against Stichting Leenrecht, a Dutch organization who collects copyright licensing fees from libraries and other lending institutions.
     The Vereniging Openbare Bibliotheken lends out electronic material with a “one copy, one user”-model, where the library can only lend out a single copy of the electronic material at one time to one user. The material is checked out for a specific period of time and upon the due date is no longer available to the user.
     The complaint sought to clarify whether articles from the 2006 directive were to “be construed as meaning that ‘lending,’ as referred to in those provisions, also means making copyright-protected novels, collections of short stories, biographies, travelogues, children’s books and youth literature available for use, not for direct or indirect economic or commercial advantage, via a publicly accessible establishment.”
     The complaint also sought to determine if this type of electronic lending allowed the user to download the material to their own computer or make a reproduction of the copyright-protected material. In March 2015, an EU court stopped member countries from charging lower sales tax on electronic books.

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