NON PAGO DI LEGGERE. I won't pay to read! (*)
European campaign against paying for library loans
From an initiative of Cologno Monzese Library
The European Union has opened an infringement proceeding against certain European countries, including Italy, 'guilty' of not having introduced the remuneration of authors and publishers for library loans.
It is a measure which makes up part of a general attack on the right to read and to have access to culture, music and information. The so-called EUCD had already once heavily limited the potentials of copying rights and had introduced the idea of fixed-term usage (thus, from then on, whoever buys an e-book, an item of software, a CD or a DVD, can no longer be sure they will be able to use it in a few years' time or if they change CD/DVD-player, computer or laptop: the system of 'invisible ink' as it is called).
Even if it does not produce immediate effects, the European proceeding has already had the result of making what seemed inconceivable yesterday appear credible. So, will we have to charge for library loans to redistribute royalties to editors and (in small part) to authors? Would we have to subtract from the already tight budget for new acquisitions in public libraries a quota to pay for the rights owned by the SIAE (Association of Italian authors and publishers), as has happened for photocopies, perhaps proportional to the number of members (as in France) or number of loans, with the commendable result of punishing the most active and efficient libraries? Would we have to lay the costs on the state, creating an indirect tax on reading, a modern equivalent of tax on flour?
All these solutions are equally hard to digest. Libraries have a different idea of the rights of the author: they exist and fight for authors (not only bestsellers) to be known, read and appreciated, in order that they can be known, read and appreciated even after disappearing from the shelves of bookshops and the market as a whole, where they remain for, on average, only six or seven months. Libraries have a different idea of the rights of the author: they invest in cataloguing, promoting and stockpiling to allow authors to reach their readers.
With the levels of reading that exist in Italy – amongst the lowest in Europe – the possibility of introducing charges for borrowing equals foretold suicide.
For this reason, Cologno library has undertaken to gather together the worries of many librarians, many readers and many authors (and even of some editors!) and to unite with Spanish colleagues who are protesting in a contemporary demonstration in Guadalajara against 'el préstamo de pago' (we are due to have a videoconference meeting with them). It is an international unity the symbolic and practical value of which we wish to highlight. Libraries are a huge open shelf for publishing and for freedom of information. We wish to say, softly yet decisively, that their opinion has to be taken into account – not as has happened in the past.
(*) but also "I'm not satisfied with reading" or "I can't get enough of reading".
[read more on Ifla Section of Public Libraries Newsletter] august 2004 (.pdf)
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