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Brussels, 28 November 2007

Launch of European digital library "on track"

Yesterday a high level group on digital libraries met Commission officials in Brussels to discuss progress towards launching the European digital library. A European digital library foundation has recently been created. This formalises the agreement of European archives, museums, audiovisual archives and libraries to work together and to provide a common access point to Europe's cultural heritage online.

Europe's citizens should all be able to enjoy our rich cultural heritage. This foundation is a significant step towards making that ambition come true," commented Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. "It shows the commitment of Europe's cultural institutions to work together and make their collections available and searchable to the wide public through a common and multilingual access point online."

"The foundation gathers several European associations representing libraries, archives, audiovisual archives and museums which now collaborate in a way that is unprecedented in its scale and scope," added Elisabeth Niggemann, Director General of the German national library and chair of the Conference of European National Librarians which leads the initiative for the foundation.

Europe's cultural institutions plan to launch a prototype of the European digital library in November 2008. It will give direct access to at least 2 million digital books, photographs, maps, archival records, and film material from Europe's libraries, archives and museums. By 2010 this will already have rapidly grown to include far more digital objects than the 6 million originally envisaged as more institutions make their digitised assets searchable through the European digital library.

For a steady growth of the European digital library, two key issues need to be tackled: the financing of digitisation and solutions for making copyrighted works searchable through the European digital library. In its yesterday's meeting the high level group discussed:

  • new ways for funding digitisation through public private partnerships;
  • solutions for mass-digitisation of out of print works and orphan works (for which it is very difficult to locate the rightholders). By June next year the group should find an agreement on dealing with orphan works (including criteria for searching for rightholders);
  • the issue of access to and preservation of scientific information (see IP/07/190). Scientific publishers, libraries and scientists confirmed their intention to work together in an experiment with open access to scientific publications after an embargo period

Background information:

The European Digital Libraries initiative is one of the Commission's flagship i2010 initiatives to create a European Information Society for growth and jobs (see IP/05/643).

In August 2006, the Commission adopted a Recommendation on digitisation and digital preservation (see IP/06/1124, MEMO/06/311) which urged EU Member States to set up large-scale digitisation facilities and to tackle copyright related issues, to accelerate the process towards the European digital library.

The idea of a European digital library was strongly endorsed by the Culture Ministers of all EU Member States and was recently backed by the European Parliament in its resolution of 27 September 2007.

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