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Brussels, 26 November 2009

Digitised books, digital libraries and media literacy on the agenda at the Council of Ministers in Charge of Culture and Audiovisual Policy, 27 November 2009

The Education, Youth and Culture Council will meet in Brussels on 27 November 2009 to discuss, inter alia, key issues related to Europe's Information Society. The European Commission will present its analysis of the impact of the Google Books Settlement on Europe from the angle of copyright, cultural diversity and competition. EU ministers will address the wider challenges for digitising books and other cultural content, and making this material available through Europe's digital library Europeana. The ministers will also discuss media literacy in the digital environment. The European Commission will be represented on these issues by Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media. On the issues related to the Education and Culture portfolio, see MEMO/09/521 .

Main items on the agenda:

  • Digitisation of cultural content in Europe: exchange of views on making cultural heritage better available online in the EU, against the background of the Google Books settlement in the United States;

  • Governance and funding of Europeana: exchange of views on governance structure and financial model for Europeana ;

  • Media Literacy in the digital environment: adoption of Council conclusions responding to the recent Commission Communication.

Digitisation of cultural content


The Google Book Search agreement made the attempt to settle a lawsuit brought, as a class action, by US authors and publishers who took the view that Google violated their copyright by digitising their books and making parts of them available through Google Book Search. After criticisms of the original agreement, Google and the US authors and publishers presented on 13 November a revised settlement text to the US judge who has to approve it before it can come into force. As a result, next year there could be a solution for the digitisation of orphan and out of print books, which will cover, with the force of law, a substantial part of the English-speaking world (US, Canada, Australia and also the United Kingdom).

For the European Commission, this development confirms that it is urgent for the EU to find swiftly its own solution that ensures that digitised works – in whatever language – become available also to European citizens (which are currently excluded from the US solution), while fully respecting European law and principles, notably copyright and competition law (MEMO/09/376 ).

During the Swedish Presidency the Commission has adopted three important policy documents on the development of Europe's digital single market: on the future of Europeana ( IP/09/1257 ), on copyright in the knowledge economy ( IP/09/1544 ) and on the digital single market for creative content online ( IP/09/1563 ).

At this Council

The Commission will present its analysis of the effects of the settlement agreed in the United States between Google, publishers and authors on Europe, and of the measures to be taken to facilitate books digitisation across Europe.

EU Ministers of Culture will discuss wider issues of how Europe can make its cultural heritage better available online. The ministers will address key challenges such as opening up a level playing field for the digitisation of books, facilitating private initiatives and public-private partnerships to make digital content available and making digitised material available through Europeana.

Governance and funding of Europeana


On 28 August 2009, the European Commission adopted a Communication on "Europeana – next steps" outlining the key challenges that will determine its further development ( IP/09/1257 ).

At this Council

Following the Commission's Communication on Europeana, the EU ministers will exchange views on a series of key issues, such as the most appropriate financing model for Europeana, the possible involvement of private organisations (e.g. through sponsoring or advertising), and future governance structures for Europeana.

Media Literacy in the digital environment


On 20 August 2009, the European Commission adopted a Recommendation on Media Literacy in the digital environment to promote a more competitive audiovisual and content industry and an inclusive knowledge society ( IP/09/1244 ). The Recommendation follows a series of communications in 2008 in which European institutions (Council, European Parliament, Committee of the Regions) and Member States have positively reacted to the Commission's approach to media literacy as a tool for active citizenship in today's information society.

At this Council

The Swedish presidency, with the support of Member States, will adopt Council conclusions on media literacy to politically support the Commission's proposals in its recent Recommendation.

Other items on the agenda:

  • Digital Cinemas: views will be exchanged on the challenges that European cinema faces in the digital era, following a public consultation launched by the European Commission on this issue in October ( IP/09/1534 ).

  • Council of Europe Convention on trans-frontier television (ECTT): some delegations have asked to discuss the letter sent by Commissioner Reding to the Member States party to the Council of Europe's Convention on trans-frontier television. In the context of the proposed review of the Convention, this letter recalls the European Community's powers to conclude international agreements in accordance with the relevant ECJ case law, i.e. Member States cannot alone enter into international commitments where they do not have exclusive competence. The draft Council of Europe Convention is to a large extent identical to the EU's Audiovisual Media Services Directive, an internal market Directive adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers in 2007 (see IP/07/706 ).

Commissioner Reding will also report about her meeting this week with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland, where the relationship between the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and the Council of Europe convention had been clarified and where both institutions agreed on close cooperation and action which complements each other.

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