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Google-fixated EC chiefs ask Europe to revise copyright law

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Brussels needs to rethink its copyright laws to cover digital books, two Eurocrats declared today.

The information society Commissioner, Viviane Reding, and the internal market and services Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, issued a joint statement in which they called for a revision of copyright legislation that takes into account online book publishing.

“It is time for Europe to turn over a new e-leaf on digital books and copyright,” they opined.

The EU is meeting with right holders, libraries, IT firms and consumer organisations this week to discuss digital publishing. It will be talking with the European Parliament and the Council over the coming weeks about digitising books.

The Commission is calling on Europe to adapt its copyright legislation to bring it in line with the US and its regulatory framework.

McCreevy and Reding are calling on the EU to look at a legal structure that "paves the way for a rapid roll out of services, similar to those made possible in the US by the recent settlement, to European consumers," said the Commission.

They “stressed the need for fully respecting copyright rules to ensure fair remuneration for authors, but also welcomed public-private partnerships as a means to boost digitisation of books.”

According to the Commission, only one per cent of books housed in Europe’s national libraries have been digitised. Which, the commissioners noted, offers both an “enormous task” as well as “new cultural and market opportunities.”

Both are heavily in support of bringing out-of-print books, which represent about 90 per cent of space currently filled on library bookshelves, online.

“Our aim is to blow away stale stereotypes that hindered debate in the past and focus on finding the best approach that today’s technology will allow us to take in the future, while giving a new boost to cultural creation in the digital age.”

The pair argued that if Europe responds slowly to change, then its “culture could suffer in the future.”

Reding will meet with library reps, publishers, trade bodies and Google execs tomorrow.

In the meantime Google’s settlement with US publishers and authors remains limited to that territory and awaits court approval. It also faces plenty of criticism from rival tech firms, copyright groups and a European economic powerhouse - the German government. ®

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