EIFL statement on cross border uses at SCCR 27

At SCCR 27, library and archive organisations have been able to offer interventions on specific topics before the Committee for consideration. On Thursday 1 May discussions for libraries and archives began with Topic 6, Cross Border Uses. The following statement was delivered by Ms. Teresa Hackett, EIFL:

On behalf of Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), that partners with libraries and library consortia in more than 60 developing and transition economy countries, we thank the Committee for the opportunity to speak on cross-border uses.

We thank the African Group, Ecuador and India for proposals on this topic.

The collections of libraries and archives in one country often contain materials of unique cultural and historical significance to people in other countries due to national border changes, mass emigration, shared common languages, research interests and a host of other reasons. These materials collectively contribute to the cultural heritage of humankind and the building of intercultural understanding.

Take, for example, an Italian scholar researching the lives of the Quechua people in South America. Should they only have access to research materials in Italian libraries? They will get resources in libraries in Italy, butfor the most part, the materials are only available elsewhere e.g. in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador.

Likewise, a person in the US studying Antonio Gramsci, the Italian politician and philosopher would certainly find material in US libraries, but just as certainly would need to consult many other materials by and about Antonio Gramsci held solely in Italian libraries.

A recent survey by IFLA’s CLM showed that libraries receive requests for access to specialized items in their collection from a wide variety of countries. For example, libraries in Senegal get requests from Morocco, France, Guinea, Burkina Faso among others. Colombian libraries get requests for materials from Mexico, USA, Peru, France, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Venezuela.

In many countries, however, copyright exceptions stop at the border. They don’t permit libraries to legally provide copies of documents to overseas libraries at the request of an end user.

I will provide one concrete example of a cross-border use. A PhD student in Estonia was undertaking comparative research in five Baltic and Nordic countries on historiographical narratives i.e. a critical analysis of authentic source materials used in the writing of history. The student needed to consult articles and book chapters from c. 1920 that are not available in Estonia. The university library sent electronic requests to libraries in Iceland and Norway that had the materials in their collections. But, due to copyright and licensing restrictions, the requests were refused.

How do we explain to today’s generation that they must get on an aeroplane to consult, for bona fide research purposes, a chapter from a book published 90 years ago? Or that copyright exists to actually encourage research and creativity?

Finally we note that despite extensive schemes in Nordic countries, licensing did not facilitate this straightforward request. In addition, libraries in Denmark and Norway reported in the recent EU consultation on copyright, that cross-border access is not permitted under their Extended Collective Licensing schemes. In its comments, the National Library of Norway that has an Extended Collective Licence to provide online access to Norwegian literature said that “the cross-border effect is halted as the cross-border effect is not compatible with EU-law”.

We need an international solution to an international problem.

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