Electronic books should be treated just like physical books for the purposes of lending, an advisor to Europe’s top court has said.
Maciej Szpunar, advocate general to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), said in an opinion published (PDF) Thursday morning that public libraries should be allowed to lend e-books so long as the author is fairly compensated.
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…