These were the questions in Vereniging Openbare Bibliotheken v Stichting Leenrecht, C-174/15, a reference for a preliminary ruling to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) from the Rechtbank Den Haag (District Court of The Hague, Netherlands).
As reported by this blog, this reference arose in the context of proceedings brought by the association of Dutch public libraries which - contrary to the position of Dutch government - holds the view that libraries should be entitled to lend electronic books included in their collections according to the principle "one copy one user".
This envisages the possibility for a library user to download an electronic copy of a work included in the collection of a library with the result that - as long as that user "has" the book - it is not possible for other library users to download a copy. Upon expiry of the e-lending period, the electronic copy downloaded by the first user becomes unusable, so that the book in question can be e-borrowed by another user.
The AG Opinion
In his Opinion on 16 June last, Advocate General (AG) Maciej Szpunar advised the CJEU to rule that Article 1(1) of the Rental and Lending Rights Directive must be interpreted in the sense of including the right to lend electronic books included in a library's own collection. Although the AG held the view that the issue of digital exhaustion under the InfoSoc Directive is unrelated from that of whether libraries can e-lend, he provided some interesting hints in this respect.
At the time of the Opinion, I highlighted how the AG discussed the role of libraries and - similarly to a more recent Opinion [here] of AG Szpunar (once again on the Rental and Lending Rights Directive) - stressed how [para 27] "it is imperative to give legal acts an interpretation which takes into account developments in technology, markets and behaviour and not to fix such acts in the past by adopting too rigid an interpretation."
|Milly is worried: |
what would be of her favourite hiding place
if all books became electronic?
In today's judgment the CJEU appeared to confirm the AG's analysis [the judgment is not yet available on the Curia website, but the press release is].
An initial comment
(1) not only is the judgment good news for libraries, but