Monthly Archives: January 2018

Data Privacy Day: Call the Information Specialists!

Libraries are specialised in preserving, storing and giving access to information. They have long understood its power to drive research, creativity, and development. And they have done so since long before terms such as knowledge management, evidence-based policy-making, or anything ‘smart’ were invented.


It is this understanding that also makes libraries powerful contributors to efforts to promote data privacy.


A New Frontier Between the Public and Private… or none at all?

Thanks to the way the Internet works, it’s not just famous people, or significant events, that are the subject of data collection, but everyone. The servers of governments and Internet businesses contain libraries of information about normal citizens and their behaviour online. Libraries and library suppliers too can risk doing this, although fortunately there are now effective alternatives available that eliminate or minimise collection of data.


Meanwhile, social media has blurred the line between the private and the public, without many of us fully understanding the implications of publishing information about our families or political views to the world. In other cases, the implications are all too clear, for example in the case of phenomena such as revenge porn or witch-hunts against individuals.


This poses a significant question as to how the right to live without arbitrary attacks on privacy (Article 12 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights) can be defended.


Laws Are Not Enough

The law does of course have a role. Data protection legislation has the potential to cut back on speculative data collection by companies. In Europe at least, firms and others will have to be clear about what information they are gathering, and how it will be used. Citizens will have the possibility to ask to see what data is held, and for it to be deleted.


However, it is not clear how many will actually make use of these rights, or read the necessary small print. Moreover, governments will still be able to claim that national security – for right or for wrong – justifies attacks on privacy. The most effective response is to empower the individual, giving them the knowledge and tools necessary to look after themselves.


Information Specialists and Empowered Individuals

Thanks to their expertise – but also their trusted role in the community – libraries can play a powerful role. In line with the IFLA Statement on Privacy in the Library Environment (2015), library cryptoparties have taken place the UK, France, the Netherlands, Australia, Sweden, the US, Canada, and Germany, to name just a few.


These explore everything from specific tools, such as ToR routers or anti-tracking software, to simpler behavioural changes which can reduce or manage risks. While much of the discourse around cryptoparties focuses on government surveillance, good data hygiene is just as applicable in dealing with unwanted attention from businesses, hackers, or even members of personal networks.


Indeed, data privacy is a vital part of broader digital literacy – the ability to get the best out of the opportunities that digital technologies offer. When a user cannot be confident about what is happening with their data, this is not possible. Libraries can make the difference.

The Internet Governance Forum: Post-Event Reflections

As a network that shares and promotes access to information for the benefit of all, libraries are the original Internet. For this reason, the Internet in itself, and the way it is governed, are central to libraries and to the advocacy work of IFLA.

But what is Internet governance exactly?

The term refers to the set of policies and mechanisms that determine how the Internet works and develops. Since no one person, company, or national state controls the Internet as a whole – only certain elements for example – we talk about governance, and not ‘government’.

The idea is that, by bringing together representatives of the governments that regulate, the companies that provide infrastructure and content, and the civil society organisations that represent the interests of users, we can ensure that the Internet works for everyone. The Internet Governance Forum (IGF), established in 2005 by the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, provides a key forum for achieving this.

The 12th IGF

The latest annual meeting of the IGF was held in Geneva from 17th to 21st December 2017. IFLA participated to the event to support libraries’ work from three different angles – connected libraries and communities, open Internet infrastructure, and empowered users.

Connected libraries and communities: for IFLA, in line with the original priorities set out by the World Summit on the Information Society, getting libraries and their communities online remains a vital goal. Collaborating with partners at the Internet Governance Forum provided an opportunity to encourage governments and donors to provide public access through libraries. The Principles on Public Access in Libraries already set out some key points to consider, with the session organised by the Dynamic Coalition on Public Access offering a chance to look further.

Maria Garrido, Senior Researcher at the Technology and Social Change Group (TASCHA),  emphasized how public access is fundamental for all and how libraries play a particularly important role for marginalised groups. Janet Sawaya (EIFL) reminded the audience that the Dynamic Coalition had been built on the idea that libraries are a vehicle for public access to knowledge and information. She focused on the potential of Universal Service Funds as a tool to support creativity and access for all.

Winston Roberts (National Library of New Zealand) noted that ever since the first WSIS Principles, there had been awareness of how important public access was. He underlined the need to ensure that when thinking about the Internet, educational, cultural and scientific goals should be considered.  David Ramirez-Ordonez (librarian and blogger) told the story of Colombia, where, after the recent peace accord between the government and rebels, libraries are playing a significant role as a reconciliation network, with presence both in communities, and in the capital alongside policy-makers.

Open Internet Infrastructure: connectivity isn’t enough when both governments and private players can influence what you can see online. IFLA has already argued that that blocking or slowing access to information, is wrong and made statements both on net neutrality and Internet shutdowns. At IGF we advocated for a free and open Internet and defended free speech and free access to information.

IFLA attended sessions from the importance of accessibility for all, the Domain Name System, Fake News, Freedom of Expression and Cybersecurity among others. We led a lighting session on Digital preservation and were invited to speak at a UNESCO session chaired by Guy Berger, UNESCO Director of Division Freedom of Expression and Media Development. This invitation was a great opportunity to set out our interest in a healthier and better Internet for libraries, librarians and patrons.

Empowered Library Users: the skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours necessary to become a confident and proficient Internet user are an important area where IFLA is constantly engaged.

Libraries can be a key player on digital literacy – the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours necessary to get the most out of the Internet. Libraries offer everything from the most basic computer skills, to developing more sophisticated capacities, such as the ability to spot fake news. The IGF is a great opportunity to connect libraries with the many other actors and programmes out there developing tools and practices on digital literacy.


The IGF forum is an important moment to advocate for libraries and underline the vital role they have in shaping the way Internet is used, protected, enabled and implemented. The forum is also a tool to enable a truly democratic discussion about the Internet. In order to ensure that the long-term public interest continues to be reflected in how the Web operates, it is essential to maintain the debate active and realize that we all have a role in shaping the future for a better, more just Internet.

From Shelf to Platform: Why Safe Harbours Matter for Libraries

Image Copyright Week Day 5

In most of the discussions about either copyright or Internet policy that IFLA attends, the term ‘Internet platform’ is usually code for Google or Facebook. They provide a place where individuals – from writers and creators to propagandists and people uploading large numbers of illicit copies of films – can reach an audience wider than anything imaginable before the Internet. Sometimes through advertising, sometimes through selling data collected, sometimes simply indirectly through reputation or attraction, they gain by this activity.


The idea that some of the wealthiest, and arguably powerful companies in the world should benefit from protection from legal liability when they host – and directly or indirectly benefit from – content that is illegal, is repulsive for many. The voices are loud in favour of shutting down this protection, known as safe harbours. Others suggest that the real ‘villains’ are those uploading the content, and that it is only because Google and Facebook are easier to identify, and richer, that they are targeted.


But Google and Facebook are not the only ‘platforms’ out there. Libraries are also ‘platforms’.


They provide Internet access to millions of individuals – IFLA is already collecting figures on how many institutions are doing this. Indeed, there is evidence that people are readier to look up more sensitive information in libraries than at home sometimes, where they may be subject to supervision by family members. Should they be legally responsible for the activities of their users?


They are supporting innovative learning techniques by creating sharing sites and encouraging users to go from being consumers to producers of information. Libraries run learning hubs, and organise collaboration between academic institutions. They are often behind institutional repositories, a fundamental part of the open access infrastructure. But while researchers claim to respect copyright, large numbers make mistakes when uploading articles to share with colleagues. Should libraries be responsible for this?


They support the creation of community archives, helping often marginalised groups record their own past, and build a sense of identity, often in the face of change or adversity. They collect pictures, testimonies and other materials. Many may be subject to copyright. Should libraries be responsible for accidental infringements?


Whatever the position taken on the liability of the major Internet platforms – IFLA has signed the Manilla Principles of intermediary liability – it is imperative that institutions such as libraries benefit from safe harbours. To remove them would create either unbearable risk, or lead to the restriction or ending of Internet access and use in our institutions. At a time that the Web is becoming ever more indispensable for access to information, this would be a disaster.


See some of the materials created in Australia, where the government has recently proposed to extend safe harbour provisions to libraries. Find out more, too, about IFLA’s work on copyright and libraries.

IFLA at OpenCon 2017

IFLA participated at OpenCon 2017 late last year, a key event in the open access, open education and open data movement. With over 10,000 applications received for the 2017 conference, IFLA was one of the lucky ones to be selected.

Thanks to the variety of the sessions’ format, the conference met the perfect balance between structure and dynamism, where participants had plenty of opportunities to listen, present and interact. One could easily find a slot to suggest discussions around a topic of his or her concern.

OpenCon brought together many enthusiastic people interested in advancing open access. Unlike other conferences, there was a real atmosphere of belonging to a big (open access) family, with sessions like story circles, where participants were brought together in small groups to each tell the story of how they got involved in open access.

Open Access worldwide and many other topics

The formal conference sessions were built around a large number of 10-minute presentations, divided into several panels. Among other interesting interventions, Robin Champieux described her efforts and strategies to build an “open access university”, to encourage researchers to participate in the OA movement. She also insisted on the need to be critical with open access itself; because we tend to think that it is inherently good, we risk not questioning the fairness of some of its developments.

How can we ensure OA doesn’t just replicate the dominance of the richer countries? Denisse Albornoz underlined that, “the system is set up in such a way that we tend to hear a lot more about what is produced and what is happening in the global north and not necessarily about what is happening in the rest of the world”. Siko Bouterse also raised the very important question of “whose knowledge is still missing in our open projects”.

It was clear that open access, being present worldwide, needs to look for ways to integrate and respect linguistic and diversity. This is essential if it is to realise its social justice mission.

The Unconference sessions gave participants the possibility to engage in discussions around a specific topic. For instance, around “Best practices in open scholarly research: green, gold or hybrid”, where we considered if there was a perfect solution. For many, sticking to green, gold, hybrid or even diamond open access would mean accepting the current system with its dysfunctional origin, instead of calling for a restructure from the roots.

Librarians’ role in open access

The last day was dedicated to do-a-thons, where anyone could raise a challenge or a project, or chose to collaborate in one suggested by someone else. Together with many interesting topics, IFLA raised the challenge of “how to ensure that librarians around the world develop the full potential of the key role they play in boosting Open Access”. There are many key players in the Open Access movement, and librarians are clearly one of them. A group of around 6 people joined, and discussions moved from daily challenges that librarians face when pushing for open access, to technical questions in managing green open access repositories.

Librarians often find it hard to reach out to other faculty members to explain the importance of (green) open access. Support between librarians and academics, respectively, is important, and therefore liaison librarians have a key role. Some suggested, as a means to get researchers more interested, the possibility of underlining the positive outcomes of making research available on university repositories, such as a higher number of citations or increased accessibility to research.

Another issue is that copyright is seen as a challenge for many librarians. Some fear it, or don’t see the need of getting involved with it. It is however an important subject in a librarian’s (daily) work. Furthermore, many acknowledged how bureaucracy is a big problem when trying to influence university policies.

The conference offered a great overview of current forward-looking projects on open access from all corners of the world. It is a unique opportunity to gather people from many key areas in the open access movement to discuss and exchange information and most importantly join efforts in making open access possible around the world. With many questions unresolved and challenges to be met, the enthusiasm and optimism of the group of participants showed the energy that the movement needs.

Copyright’s threat to freedom of expressions: IFLA submits recommendations to UN special Rapporteur

The way people produce and access information has changed in the last decades. Internet platforms, for instance, make it possible for content – especially from new voices – to reach wide audiences. While some of the content shared might represent straightforward infringement,  a big part of it consists of original, user generated content.

Libraries, as defenders of access to information and of freedom of expression, are concerned about the impact that upload filters can have on this new content. An obligation to filter what is uploaded on a platform, through automated means and not on a case-by-case basis, implies that all speech is subject to policing before it is heard.

Following the call for submissions by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression on the subject of content regulation in the digital age, IFLA shared concerns and recommendations with regards to automated upload filters. In the submission, IFLA also comments on global removals, privacy of library users, content regulation processes and moderation.

More specifically, the submission highlighted the risk that upload filtering measures will create negative effects on the services that libraries provide. University libraries often run institutional repositories that host research papers uploaded by faculty and students. The amount of works makes it impossible, in most cases, to check if copyright is cleared. However, upload filters, unless extremely well-developed, risk blocking files that could legitimately be uploaded and whose openness is key to the research community. Moreover, it is not clear that library budgets could face the cost of such software. What is surer still is that they cannot face the costs of litigation.

As stated in the document, IFLA “recommends that extreme caution be applied in using automatic moderation techniques. The evidence that the working of algorithms can even escape the understanding of their creators only adds to the concern about whether they are working transparently. We recommend that where they are applied, it should only be in conjunction with human judgement”.

We need access to information… about the laws that affect access to information!

Copyright Week Day 3

The way that copyright laws are written has a major impact on how people can access, apply, and create information. This access is not only a basic human right, but is essential to education, innovation and broader development. In the light of this, citizens and the libraries that serve them must have a say in how these laws are created.

But libraries concerned about users’ rights cannot only look at copyright laws. Trade deals increasingly influence laws by imposing one country’s copyright rules on another. Too often this leads to backwards steps like unnecessary term extension, or the legal protection of digital rights management tools which prevent the enjoyment of exceptions. Too often, also, trade deals are negotiated in secrecy.

Transparency in Trade Deals: the Brussels Declaration

On the 22 February 2016, IFLA therefore co-signed the Brussels declaration on trade and the internet, a document that was endorsed by several organisations and individual experts. Nearly two years later, IFLA continues to urge decision-makers around the world to guarantee the transparency of negotiations on trade agreements.

As shown in other decision-making processes, the voices of civil society organisation, the opinions of experts, add valuable knowledge that shouldn’t be ignored. IFLA played an important role in the discussions at WIPO – which is comparably a very good performer on transparency – around the Marrakesh Treaty. Without the input of organisations serving the interests of people with print disabilities, of libraries, and of publishers, the treaty wouldn’t have met the needs of its beneficiaries as it can do now.

Current Concerns

While Marrakesh represents a highlight, there are plenty of concerns. The European Union-Mercosur trade agreement is likely to carry extension of copyright terms or the adoption of rules that ban the circumvention of technological protection measures for Latin American countries[1]. Without the adequate input and even open discussions that bring together all stakeholders, the outcome risks serving the interests of very few, and not a global perspective.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in Asia, at least on the basis of years-old leaked negotiating drafts, could also be very negative for libraries and their users.

Today, celebrating the copyright week 2018 around the topic of “transparency”, we therefore wish to remind of what was agreed on, and still stands, in the signature of the Brussels Declaration:

  • respect, promote and fulfill articles 19 and 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in ensuring pro-active dissemination of information, including the regular release of draft proposals and consolidated texts, to enable stakeholders to be fully informed and to meaningfully participate in the negotiation process;
  • provide ample opportunities for meaningful involvement and collaboration with civil society representatives, including through on-the-record public notice and comment and public hearing processes—at least equivalent to that normally required for other public rulemaking processes —at relevant points during the generation of government positions;
  • apply freedom of information principles to the development and negotiation of government positions;
  • require balanced representation on any trade advisory bodies or processes, including implementation bodies, and require that they reflect all interests potentially affected and generally operate in open forums subject to public observance and access to documentation;
  • take affirmative measures to engage organizations and experts representing Internet users and consumers;
  • ensure that the resulting agreements support realization of the targets of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and that processes which evaluate their impact should contribute to Agenda 2030’s implementation review processes.

Through the work of its Advisory Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters, IFLA monitors ongoing discussions, and works to raise awareness among, and support, its members int heir own efforts to get copyright right for libraries.



The end of ownership of library material

The limits established by licensing agreements are a major and growing concern for libraries. In an effort to underline the challenges raised, IFLA commissioned a literature review on the limits of licensing. The study, written by Svetlana Yakovleva, underlines that licences stop far short of granting ownership, and identifies the main limitations associated with copyright licenses for libraries.

Some of the key issues referred to in the study are the following:

  • You can’t licence without a licensor: in order to sign a licence, there needs to be someone who can offer it. In the case of orphan works (in particular works which were never made to be sold), it simply isn’t possible to identify and/or contact a rightholder. The fact that there may be many different “rightholders” in a single book or piece of music makes the problem worse.
  • Licences can limit uses: as highlighted, licences can remove or weaken possibilities given to libraries and their users by limitations and exceptions to copyright. This can be explicit (contract terms which prohibit the making of copies for preservation or to adopt them for people with disabilities), or implicit (such as limiting use to certain “authorised” users means that supplying copies, even on an ad hoc basis, to others is ruled out).
  • Licences do not offer guarantees: with licensed works often “stored” on the rightholder’s servers (rather than the library’s), there is often no guarantee that libraries can keep these works when their subscription ends, or they are made unavailable by the rightholder. Moreover, there is not necessarily any guarantee that the content has not (or will not) been changed
  • Anti-piracy measures can become anti-user measures: digital resources often come with technological protection measures. These are used to enforce contractual provisions. While they may have a role in fighting piracy, they can also prevent users from benefitting from copyright exceptions, for example private copying, adding metadata, or preservation. Unless stated otherwise, such measures are protected themselves by law, and cannot be removed.

This infographic sets out real-life examples of the clauses that can limit the access and use of digital materials in libraries.