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LIBER Conference

          The Annual General Conference of LIBER (Ligue des Bibliotheques
Europeennes de Recherche) began in Bern last week with a very valuable
Pre-Conference session on likely developments in European copyright
legislation. The first speaker was Mr. Jukka Liedes of the Ministry of
Education in Finland. Mr. Liedes chaired the WIPO Copyright Conference in
Geneva last December. He described the various rights that were or were not
covered in the WIPO Treaty. His view was that although the right of
reproduction was not agreed as part of  the Treaty, the Bern Convention
provision would continue and that it could cover temporary (electronic)
reproduction as well as permanent reproduction, at least until national
legislation covered the issue. His view of the right of communication was
that the Bern provisions had been extended by WIPO, including the right of
members of the public to access at a distance, although the next stage will
be to explore limitations to the communication right. All this sounds very
up-beat from a librarian's or academic's point of view, but notice the
qualifications about "national legislation" and "the next stage". Mr. Liedes
said that library and academic organizations have already played a a useful
part in the international copyright discussions, and he hoped that they
would continue to do so. Whatever our view of the successes or failures at
WIPO, it is clear that we must keep up the pressure to ensure that fair
dealing and library privileges are maintained in the electronic era.

          The second speaker, Dr. Jorge Reinbothe, also tried to reassure us
but also left us feeling uneasy. Dr. Reinbothe is in a key position in the
European Commission, effectively drafting a new EU Directive on Copyright
which will apear in the autumn. The Green Paper of 1988 was the first stage
in the EU's consideration of copyright, and five Directives are now
appearing on specific topics. Emanuella Giavarra has alerted the ecup-list
to the dangers posed by one of those Directives, and we shall be watching
the wording of future Directives very carefully. The purpose of the
Directive currently in preparation is to achieve "harmonisation" (EU-speak
for persuading 15 different countries to agree) on reproduction rights,
communication to the public, abuse of copyright and distribution rights. The
problem Dr. Reinbothe and his colleagues have is in harmonising the
exceptions to the rights, some of which may apply in some Member States but
not in others. Possible exceptions would be in favour of the handicapped,
for short excerpts needed for reporting of current events, for
"technologically indispensable reproductions", and - crucial to academic
institutions - for research purposes, educational purposes and library use.
Dr. Reinbothe sounded reassuring but was difficult to pin down on specifics,
so EU librarians should not be complacent. 

          The third speaker was Mr. Helge Sonneland of the Norwegian
Ministry of Cultural Affairs who agreed with Dr. Liedes is stressing the
importance to the library world of the WIPO right of communication to the
public. He thought that it would be possible for national legislation to
maintain in the electronic era the balance of interests existing with regard
to copyright in paper publications, although (always there is a
qualification) libraries cannot expect an automatic transfer from the
analogue to the digital environment. M. Sonneland was also in favour of
further dialogue "based on mutual respect and understanding".

          If we were tempted to go to sleep after three heavyweight speakers
in an afternoon, Emanuella Giavarra  immediately woke us up with her opening
statement for the fourth presentation: "We should worry; our future is at
stake". Emanuella - who has done so much to raise awareness of the copyright
issue in Europe - went on to state in a plainer way than we had heard from
other speakers that WIPO's descriptions of rights and exceptions can be
applied in a way that is beneficial to users of libraries, and that EU or
national legislation should not be allowed to dilute that beneficial effect.
What we need, Emanuella rightly said, is clear language from governments,
without the need for court cases to interpret that language. Those of us
older and cynical may say "some hope!", and certainly we should worry. There
is still much to do.

         What we should be doing in Europe is lobbying Members of the
European Parliament and our own national parliaments to ensure that fair
dealing and library privileges are incorporated without any ambiguity in any
future legislation. I believe that we should also be doing more of what our
American colleagues have been doing in raising awareness in the academic
community of the importance of copyright changes to scholarly communication.
I doubt if many members of the academic community in the UK, for example,
realise the danger that they will lose fair dealing and the practical
consequences that loss would have for their teaching and research. As
librarians we are aware of the danger and we must raise the profile of such

Fred Friend (with apologies for cross-posting to those who see both
liblicense and the ecup lists)           

Frederick J. Friend, Librarian, University College London,
Gower Street, London, England WC1E 6BT.
Direct dial telephone: +44 171 380 7090
Fax: +44 171 380 7373
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