May 25, 2022

IFLA Publishes “Literature Review on the Use Of Licenses in Library Context, and the Limitations this Creates To Access To Knowledge”

The International Federation of Library Associations: (IFLA) published the following literature today.

Full Text of IFLA Launch Announcement:

The way libraries acquire content is in transition. With a growing share of digital material in library collections, licences are a fact of life. However, and as many in the library world have already experienced, while licenses give access to knowledge, they can also restrict it.

IFLA’s Advisory Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters has therefore commissioned a literature review on the use of licensing in library context, and the limitations this creates to access to knowledge. The study, written by Svetlana Yakovleva and released today, looks through the available research, from theoretical analyses to practical survey work on libraries’ experience of licensing. It identifies the main limitations associated with copyright licenses in the library context, sets out how they impact both access and use of digital content, and provides examples.

The work underlines, among other issues, how access through licences does not necessarily mean ownership of the content by the library; how licenses can override the rights granted by the legal framework, placing private law in front of public; how anti-piracy measures can easily become anti-user measures and be detrimental to access to information; or how licenses can compromise privacy, by making the monitoring of data by rightsholders easier.

The key message: licences may be a necessary part of acquiring access to digital materials, but without protections for fundamental library and user rights, they can represent a step backwards when compared with the experience with physical works.

Direct to Full Text Literature Review
40 pages; PDF.

Direct to Executive Summary
2 pages; PDF.

Direct to Infographic

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.