Libraries Should be Able to Lend eBooks, Says EU Advocate General

6411496125_d52dc0cfa9_bThe EU is one step closer to adopting a universal legal policy enabling libraries to lend ebooks. Earlier today Advocate General Maciej Szpunar published a nonbinding advisory opinion which said that libraries should be able to lend ebooks just like they do paper books.

From Ars Technica:

A 2006 EU directive says that the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit rentals and loans belongs to the author of the work. However, countries may opt out of this rule for the purposes of “public lending,” provided that authors obtain fair remuneration.

In the Netherlands, e-books do not fall specifically under that exception. But the association of Dutch public libraries—Vereniging Openbare Bibliotheken (VOB)—has argued that the rules should be the same for digital lending as for traditional books. It went on to bring a case against Stichting Leenrecht, an authors’ rights collecting foundation.

Under VOB’s “one copy, one user” system an e-book at a library’s disposal may be downloaded by a user for the lending period, on the understanding that it is not accessible to other library users during that entire period.

At the end of that period, the book in question will automatically become unusable for the borrower in question and may then be borrowed by another user.

Szpunar believes VOB’s method is fair under the law. He points out that bringing digital lending under the scope of the directive could lead to better security for authors, provided those e-books have been made available to the public by the rightsholder or with the their consent, and that the books are obtained from lawful sources.

You can find Szpunar’s opinion here (PDF), and IPKat has more details in a 2014 when the case was referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union by the Court of Appeal of The Hague.

I can’t speak for you but my mind is boggled that a matter as simple as ebook ownership should require the equivalent of a Supreme Court ruling. While I don’t think anyone minds that Europe created a jobs program for unemployable lawyers, did you really have to let them escape civilian control and form a government?

Why didn’t you call in NATO, or the Boy Scouts, or something? We would have helped, I swear.

image by Joris Leermakers

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Dupuis17 June, 2016

    Just a note: Europe is about 500 million people, 28 countries and many more languages. So getting everyone to be on the same page isn’t exactly easy…! It’s certainly a difficult and sometimes frustrating endeavor, but it’s worth it.

    1. Nate Hoffelder17 June, 2016

      I understand.

      But this is also a rather dull story, and a tad ridiculous. That made it an excellent opportunity to make a crack about lawyers.

  2. […] Should be Able to Lend eBooks, Says EU Advocate General right, don't let digital transition be […]

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