Creation, circulation and dissemination of knowledge in the Single Market are directly linked to the broader goals of the Lisbon Strategy. Technological developments have facilitated the availability of information in electronic form.
Libraries are interested in mass digitisation projects to preserve their archives and/or disseminate them online, including the use of orphan works (works where right holders cannot be identified or traced). Research and teaching establishments want more flexibility to disseminate materials, including in cross-border distance learning. Persons with disabilities continue to experience obstacles in accessing information or knowledge products. In particular, visually impaired people are pushing to counter their “book famine” - only 5% of European publications are available in accessible formats, a situation compounded by restrictions on cross-border distribution, even between countries sharing a language.
Publishers and authors are concerned that library-sponsored or other mass digitisation projects and online dissemination of their works without due diligence search could infringe their copyright and erode their revenue streams. Publishers claim they already make some 90% of scholarly journals available online, are investing in new and innovative electronic delivery models (e.g. e-books), including for distance learning, and provide access for visually impaired persons.
It is against this background that the Commission launched a public consultation on the Green Paper on Copyright in the Knowledge Economy. The aim was to examine how a broad dissemination of knowledge in the Single Market, notably in the online environment, could be achieved in the context of existing copyright legislation, specifically Directive 2001/29/EC on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society ("the Directive"). This Communication provides an overview of the outcome of this consultation. It announces a series of preparatory actions which will be a solid basis for concrete follow-up initiatives as part of an ambitious and comprehensive intellectual property strategy to be presented by the next Commission.
European Commission, “Copyright in the Knowledge Economy,” Copyright Cortex, accessed January 17, 2018, https://copyrightcortex.org/policy-evidence/copyright-in-the-knowledge-economy.