The right to e-read by Gerald Leitner, EBLIDA
Gillian Anderson, Acquisitions Dept, Strathclyde University Library
The chance to attend an ebook conference on my workplace doorstep seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. A quick walk down one of Strathclyde University’s famous vertiginous slopes and I would be there.
The first presentation, The Right to E-read, by Gerald Leitner of EBLIDA, really resonated with me as I deal with e-books on a daily basis. Many of the issues we encounter with publishers and aggregators of e-books, such as access restrictions to e-books being withheld from sale. Is something that we have come to accept as part of the deal with e-books. But, Gerald Leitner’s presentation highlighted that the current situation is of deep concern, as it threatens the very ethos of the library’s public mission; to provide access to its patrons of all commercially available content.
We are in a position where, as Leitner says, “collection building policy may be decided by the publishers and not the library, which could mean a threat to access to information and by extension democracy”.
The imbalance in power between libraries and publishers has prompted EBLIDA to create the “Right to e-read” campaign. It seeks to raise awareness amongst the general public, librarians and politicians about the need to change the legal framework surrounding e-books.
The whole e-book ecosystem, as he sees it, is faced with uncertainty. Publishers are struggling to develop business models which address the very different mediums of print and electronic books. Social practices are changing, we would in the past lend books to friends and future generations would inherit books. Now, with e-books that is just not possible.
Leitner talked about the principle of “exhaustion” which occurs with the sale of a print book. After the first sale, the distribution rights are said to be exhausted as a transfer of ownership has taken place, which allows the library to “distribute” or lend the book. Currently, this does not apply to e-books as they are described in EU law, as a “service” and not a “material”.
EBLIDA are campaigning for a change in EU copyright law that will afford libraries the “right to acquire” digital files and also the “right to lend” any work in any format. The introduction of mandatory fair use licenses, which will ensure libraries are given a reasonable price and publishers will no longer be allowed to refuse the sale of an e-book to a library.
I hope this snapshot of Gerald’s talk has encouraged you to find out more about the campaign. So, please visit http://www.eblida.org/e-read/home-campaign/ and of course, sign the petition!