Libraries call for active participation t in the current copyright reform

open letter libraries-en

Open letter from the Bulgarian Library and Information Association and 24 public and academic libraries in Bulgaria

On 30.05.2023. The Bulgarian Library and Information Association (BLIA) published an Open Letter addressed to the 49th National Assembly and supported by 22 public (regional and city) and 9 academic (scientific and university) libraries in Bulgaria.. The letter calls on policymakers to recognize the stakes held by cultural institutions and the public interest in balanced copyright reform.

The Open Letter was drafted in relation to the Law on the Amendment and Supplement to the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act (CNRA Amendment Bill) submitted to the 49th National Assembly on 13 April 2023 to transpose Directive 2019/789 and Directive 2019/790 into Bulgarian law, as well as the draft CNRA Amendment Bill submitted on 23 May 2023.

In their letter, libraries seek to be recognised as active participants in copyright reform. They state that the concept of copyright protection has always been based on a balance between the interests of authors and rightsholders to profit from their work, and the interests of the public in having access to information, knowledge and culture on the other. 

The modern copyright framework provides many opportunities for public, academic and special libraries to operate efficiently, and a number of incentive mechanisms exist at the EU level for 

  • mass digitisation;
  • research, including text and data mining, through library collectionscreation of scientific open access online repositories
  •  sharing scientific literature in such repositories, in machine-readable formats
  • supporting the educational mission of libraries
  • sharing cultural heritage within the European platform Europeana;
  •  presenting cultural heritage to the public, e.g. through so-called immersive experiences, etc.

The current Bulgarian copyright legislation largely deprives libraries of these opportunities by focusing on the interests of rights holders at the expense of  the public. It seriously lags behind other countries in adequately supporting interests of stakeholder groups including libraries and their patronsBulgaria has a great need to catch up with the state-of-the-art solutions used in other European countries to provide the general public with access to knowledge and culture.

In accordance with the longstanding purposes of balanced copyright law,, libraries, archives, gallerie, museums, and other educational, cultural and scientific institutions should be urgently recognised as important stakeholders in the debate on reforming the copyright framework in Bulgaria. 

Furthermore, libraries call for targeted work by the National Assembly to introduce clear rules enabling them to carry out their public mission in line with best practice at the European level. In particular, they call for specific improvements to the forthcoming legislation, including:

  • clear rules enabling them to fulfill their public mission in line with best practices at the EU level
  • legal guarantees that enable them to exercise rights provided by copyright exceptions 
  • improved opportunities to use protected works for educational purposes 
  • synchronized regulation of exceptions for cultural and educational purposes 
  • improvements to the legal regime on technical protection measures (TPMs)
  • greater latitude to use out-of-commerce works (OOCW)
  • introduction of a Secondary publishing right on publicly funded scholarly publications, etc.

In addition, the libraries insist that copyright law should be aligned with the law on access to public information and open data. In particular, they call for the introduction of a right of secondary publication to be held by scientific publicaitons’ authors or the academic institutions, as a means to allow open access to scientific publications funded by public money.

The open letter was drafted with the support of Digital Republic and the Global Libraries Foundation. 

Digital Republic is a digital rights advocacy organisation. It serves as the Knowledge Rights 21 (KR21) programme coordinator for Bulgaria. The KR21 programme aims to promote fair access to knowledge in the EU. It is administered jointly by the International Federation of Library Associations IFLA, the Association of European Research Libraries LIBER and the International Alliance of Academic and Research Libraries SPARC Europe

The Global Libraries Foundation is a non-governmental organisation which helps to bring Bulgarian citizens into the global information society, to improve their quality of life and to promote civic participation. The Foundation works to create conditions for free and equal access to information, internet and e-services for citizens, to promote information literacy, lifelong learning, civic participation and social cohesion, local and community development through public libraries.

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