May 22, 2022

Europe: “Libraries May Be Permitted To Digitise Books Without Copyright Owner’s Consent, EU High Court Rules”

From Intellectual Property Watch:

European Union governments may allow libraries to digitise books in their collection without rights owners’ consent in order to make them available at electronic reading posts, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said on 11 September. If library users want to print works out on paper or store them on a USB stick, however, rights holders must be fairly compensated.


The decision, Technische Universität Darmstadt v Eugen Ulmer KG, involves the refusal by a university library to buy and use an e-book published by Eugen Ulmer. Instead, it made the book available by computer without the publisher’s consent. The German Federal Court of Justice asked for clarification of the scope of the exception under the EU copyright directive (2001/29/EC) which allows publicly accessible libraries to make works available to users via dedicated terminals.


The decision, however, doesn’t mention online access to books digitised by a library, but limits the exception to dedicated terminals, [Vincent] Bonnet [European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA) director] said. “This may prove to severely limit the effect” of the ruling, as it doesn’t address the full exploitation of digital technologies such as remote access to knowledge and culture, he said.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.