Tag Archives: public lending rights

2 Days to Human Rights Day: The Right to Culture

Image for 2 Days to Human Rights Day Blog - the right to cultural participationAt two days to Human Rights Day 2018, the second-to-last of IFLA’s daily blogs looks at the right to participate in the cultural life of the community, or in short, the right to culture. 

Amongst policy areas, culture is often seen as one of the least important. It rarely grabs the headlines in the same way as security, education or defence.

As such, it can seem like an easy area to cut when there is a need to make savings. Something that is nice, but not necessary.

Yet the Universal Declaration of Human Rights offers a strong counter-argument. Article 27 underlines that ‘Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community’.

This offers a confirmation of the central role of culture in the development of individuals and society, and the duty of governments to ensure that all can access it.

This is also an affirmation of one of the core roles of libraries, alongside promoting education and research. Our institutions provide a gateway to literature, from children’s books and bestsellers to the classics. They are key vehicles for delivering cultural policy – and human rights.

Yet as with the rest of the Universal Declaration, there is no obligation to deliver access to culture in any particular way. Is it more appropriate to focus efforts on those who cannot afford access in any other way, or should solutions be universal?

This blog looks at this question from the perspective of library services.


Levellers: Targeted Support to Enhance Access

Culture is not necessarily cheap. For people to be able to devote their time to writing, to theatre, or to other creative activities, they need – and deserve – support. Indeed, Article 27b of the Universal Declaration recognises this right to the material benefits of creativity.

Many others add value, through perfecting works, and then helping distribute them.

A variety of mechanisms are in place to support this activity, such as subsidies, benefits, or tax cuts. Yet selling works – books, films, plays, art – to consumers remains the key source of income in most cases.

For consumers who have a solid income already, this is clearly not a problem.

Yet this is not the case for everyone. In the case of young parents, for example, this can be crucial, as the cost of buying all the books a child will read can be high.

Libraries do indeed have a particularly important role in providing access to culture for people who may not otherwise be served by the market. This of course includes those who, in future, will earn more and buy more books.

Evidence from the United States indicates higher level of reliance on libraries by groups more likely to be marginalised. This suggests the potential of libraries as ‘levellers’ when it comes to access to culture.


A Universal Offer

While targeted support may be more cost-efficient in the immediate term, it implies differentiating between groups in society.

It is unfortunately the case that when a service is seen as something for the ‘poor’, people will start to avoid it out of pride. Some will be excluded, despite the need they face.

This is why the nature of libraries as a universal public service is so important. They are explicitly for everyone, not just specific groups.

And while they may have a particular duty to help people more at risk of exclusion from culture – such as those with low literacy or people with disabilities – this is not at the expense of their broader community role.

Libraries themselves work to build collections and services that respond to the needs of everyone.

And while this may mean that the possibility to borrow books is open to all, this can act as a powerful discovery tool, giving new authors an opportunity to meet new readers. Libraries, of course, also buy content, providing an important source of income to authors.

The universal focus of libraries also makes them more attractive as a meeting place for all members of the community. With few other public spaces for groups to come together, this can be a key driver of social cohesion.


The right of access to culture is perhaps one of the strongest bases for the existence – and activity of libraries.

In order to drive equity – equality of outcomes – they may need to make special efforts with some groups. But, crucially, it is their universal focus – to allow everyone to participate in cultural life – that can make libraries so effective.


Read also IFLA’s submission to the call for contributions on the tenth anniversary of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights.

Copyright discussions at the LIBER Bookfair: public lending, unwaivable right to remuneration and much more

Copyright and more

IFLA recently took part in a session during the LIBER bookfair held in Barcelona from 3-5 October. LIBER, organised by the Spanish Association of Publishers’ Guilds, is a biannual event that alternates between Madrid and Barcelona.

The panel discussion was organised by FESABID, the Spanish Federation of Societies of Archivists, Librarians, Documentalists and Museologists, and focused on libraries and intellectual property and imminent challenges. A crowd of librarians, but also publishers and decisionmakers, attended and participated in the session with interesting comments regarding the “struggle” that libraries go through in seeking to give access to knowledge under outdated copyright laws.

Discussions during the panel had a strong focus on two aspects: the European copyright reform and public lending.

The European copyright reform

The first one promises to update certain exceptions and limitations to copyright that should make the above-mentioned “struggle” for libraries softer. Although not all exceptions might become mandatory (see the Council and the Parliament’s new article on text and data mining, or the second part of article 4 on illustration for teaching in the Commission’s proposal), which is to the detriment of harmonization within the Union, they all seem like a step forwards in adapting copyright to the digital age.

Public lending rights

Meanwhile, public lending in Spain has a tumultuous history and is far from having reached a status where stakeholders are satisfied. Collecting societies still claim that the current system is so inefficient that it ends up creating more cost than benefit. Moreover, after the preliminary ruling by the CJEU in case C‑174/15 regarding e-lending, there was also some expectation on whether the European copyright reform directive would bring more legal clarity to the topic.

Currently, digital lending in Spain works under the eBiblio platform, accessible to all users with a Spanish public library card. Contrary to public lending of physical books, libraries do not buy and lend the works, but they are accessed through this government-established platform.

Collective management in Spain

This LIBER edition was held at an interesting moment for Spain, as the Government has recently amended its copyright law to transpose the collective management Directive and the Marrakesh treaty Directive.

Collective management organisations in Spain are given an important role under Spanish law. They are for instance in charge of collecting and distributing money for remunerated limitations to copyright such as the private copy limitation or public lending. Even though they have such a big responsibility, there are still claims regarding their lack of transparency and fraudulent activities on certain occasions.

The important role that collective management organisations (CMOs) play in Spain is also underlined by a specific provision regarding unwaivable right to equitable remuneration for authors, subject to compulsory collective management. It has been adopted not only for the provision that transposed the SatCab directive, but also with regards to the remuneration in the limitation for illustration for teaching (art. 32.4 TRLPI), the limitation to make private copies (art. 25 TRLPI) and the neighbouring right for press publishers (art. 32.2 TRLPI).

Such provisions have received a lot of criticism (from the Creative Commons community, and from the library community) for their negative impact on the free circulation of knowledge. Even if the “intention” is to ensure remuneration to authors, it means that cannot decide to share their creation freely.

The hurry to transpose this directive meant that the Marrakesh Treaty Directive, which was transposed at the same time, was adopted by Spain faster than expected. It opens up possibilities of cross-border exchange within the European Union and from the Union to third party countries that have ratified the Treaty. Given the large number of Spanish-speakers around the world, it is certainly very welcome news.

An hour was obviously too short to get into all these topics, which shows how there are a lot of areas that still require the library community’s attention. Their experience and engagement will be key in shaping the future of copyright law in the country.