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FOLLOWING A PROPOSED DEAL BETWEEN the Internet search engine company Google and publishers and libraries in United States over its ambitious project to scan millions of books, the European Commission wants to move fast to prevent EU libraries being left behind. Meanwhile its own EU bookshop is leading the way, having copied 12 million pages of documents in fifty languages to recently launch a new digital library.
The capacity to make low-cost, perfect copies has always trailed problems in its wake, whether applied to music, films or books. The latest clash between established copyright law and the new technology came as Google intended to make them available over the web. However the difficulty of tracing millions of rights holders and the problem of orphan works, that are recent enough to come under copyright law but for which no owner can be found, seemed to have been overcome in the USA. The Commission has pointed out that if the proposed settlement goes through European works in American libraries will only be available in digital form in the US. To prevent this it wants to set up integrated copyright rules across the EU probably including a central registry to distribute payments from Google and other companies and a 'cut-off date' allowing works published before it to be considered in the public domain. The Community's cultural heritage web site Europeana (see issue 45) or private sites could then host the digitised books.
Some measure of the potential popularity of digitised libraries can be gained from the experience of the EU Publications Office which started its scanning project when a previous 'on-demand' service was swamped by requests for electronic copies of its older documents. In less than two years it copied all its publications going back to 1952 to set up the EU Bookshop Digital Library. A similar project on an even larger scale involving the principal libraries in Europe would be likely to generate enormous demand and possible revenue, if a private company like Google was involved. To this end the Commissioner for Information Society and the Media, Viviane Reding, wants to 'seize this opportunity to take the lead' because, she states, 'Europe, with its rich cultural heritage, has most to offer and most to win from books digitisation'.
Web sites and reports mentioned in this section are available at:
|Commission Communication ‘Copyright in the Knowledge Economy’||http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/newsroom/cf/document.cfm?action=display&doc_id=636|
|The EU Bookshop||http://bookshop.europa.eu/eubookshop/index.action?request_locale=EN|
|Social Europe Facebook page||http://www.facebook.com/pages/Social-Europe/122074554119?ref=nf/|
|European Agency for Safety and Health at Work blog||http://osha.europa.eu/en/blog/|
THE IMAGE OF THE COMMISSION AND AGENCIES of the European Union has not always been of Internet-savvy, up-to-the-minute organisations although their efforts on the web have improved in recent years. Now they are trying to catch up with Web 2.0 and its emphasis on interactivity and social networking. Recent examples include the appearance of the Commission directorate for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities on Facebook, or a ‘group of people working on social affairs issues in the European Commission’ as they describe themselves, and the first blog by the director of the ‘European Agency for Safety and Health at Work’ (OSHA).
The ‘Social Europe’ page on the best-known social networking site contains all the usual features of Facebook including photos, videos and events; it also had 1,230 fans, who follow page updates, when the European Review accessed the site. The purpose of the page is ‘to explain how the European Union's work on employment, social affairs and equal opportunities benefits people in Europe’ according to its ‘info’ tab. Issues put up for discussion include the merit of the people appointed to high office in the EU and the responsibility of companies for workplace suicides.OSHA has chosen to keep its online diary, web log or blog in-house i.e. not to use any of the external sites such as Blogger or TypePad. In the first post by director Jukka Takala, he opines that the new technology has created the ‘greatest democratisation of knowledge ever seen in human history’ but believes that, now the web is much more interactive, institutions such as OSHA need to participate so that trusted information and good practice in health and safety can be shared with those who need it, particularly in developing countries, as quickly as possible. He also draws attention to the Google translation service which the web site uses to provide information in the 23 official languages of the EU. Unfortunately this feature did not work with the blog posts themselves when we tried so perhaps those thousands of human translators employed by the Union are still needed.