The Latest EU Copyright Infringement Cases
by John Charlton
Given the mountains of material hosted on third-party platforms, it’s little surprise that copyright issues continue to make waves. The latest ones washing up at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) saw YouTube and the Swiss file-sharing platform Cyando deemed not responsible for copyright infringements related to material uploaded to their platforms.
Music producer Frank Peterson claimed that recordings for which he held copyright were posted on YouTube in 2008 without his permission. They were songs from a Sarah Brightman studio album A Winter Symphony, plus private audio recordings from one of her tours. In the Cyando case, Elsevier is concerned by the 2013 posting of scholarly works—of which the publisher says it is the copyright holder—without its permission on Cyando’s Uploaded file-sharing platform. The works in question include Gray’s Anatomy for Students and Atlas of Human Anatomy. Germany’s Federal Court of Justice, which is hearing both cases, referred them to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling.
The CJEU states in a press release that “as EU law currently stands, operators of online platforms do not themselves make a communication to the public of copyright-protected content illegally posted online … unless those operators contribute, beyond merely making those platforms available, to giving access to such content to the public in breach of copyright.” The CJEU also finds that online platform operators may be exempt from liability “unless they play an active role of such a kind as to give them knowledge of or control over the content uploaded to their platform.”
SAVING THE U.K.’S HONRESFIELD LIBRARY
Leading U.K. libraries are backing efforts to raise £15 million (about $20.8 million) to prevent the public sale of items from a little-known private collection of valuable manuscripts and printed books and keep the collection in Britain. Friends of the National Libraries (FNL), whose remit is to keep important manuscripts by British authors in the U.K., recently launched the appeal to acquire the Honresfield Library collection and “then pass ownership of every individual item to the appropriate national, regional and specialist institution across the UK,” FNL notes. It is backed by the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, and the Bodleian Libraries, among others.
According to FNL, auction house Sotheby’s, which is handling the sale, has postponed a planned first auction of part of the collection “in order to preserve the entire library as a collection to be allocated to libraries around the UK for the benefit of the public.” The Honresfield Library collection, which has been largely inaccessible for the past 80 years, was put together by a mill owner and named after his Victorian mansion in Littleborough, Lancashire, not far from Haworth, where the Brontë sisters lived. FNL says the collection has only been seen by “a few trusted scholars.” It includes original manuscripts by Sir Walter Scott, early poems by Robert Burns, letters by Jane Austen, and a slew of manuscripts written by the Brontës. These include 25 letters by Charlotte Brontë, poems by Anne Brontë, and a shared diary note written by Anne and Emily Brontë. FNL asserts that “the absolute jewel of the Brontë collection” is Emily’s holographic notebook containing 31 poems with annotations by Charlotte. Scholars had believed it to be lost, FNL says.
FNL secretary Nell Hoare shares that the library has “already received some major donations and pledges from grant giving trusts and philanthropists and [is] in active discussions with many others. … The National Heritage Memorial Fund is considering an application.” Hoare says that FNL’s current target, which is “likely to be increased,” is £100,000 (about $138,400), and the appeal has received more than £74,000 (about $102,400) from more than 750 people. FNL has not set a specific deadline, but it’s likely the fundraising will continue throughout the fall.
BOOK PUBLISHING IN ISRAEL
Details of Israeli book publishing in 2020 have been provided in a report by the National Library of Israel (NLI). It shows that 6,487 books were published in Israel last year, compared to 8,225 in 2019 and 8,537 in 2015. Some 87% were original literary works, mostly in Hebrew. Of books translated into Hebrew, 74% were from English. In original Hebrew literature, poetry books outnumbered prose, taking a 45% share (compared to 42% for prose). Short story collections accounted for 9% of the 2020 original literary output.
The publication of nonfiction works dropped, with the field of Jewish studies showing a 33% decline from 2019. Commenting on this decrease, the NLI report says this was “likely due” to closures of research institutions because of COVID-19 restrictions, lack of access to printed sources of information, and economic concerns of publishing houses. Other stats: About 70 COVID-related books were published in 2020; 25 of them were for children. Some 214 books in Arabic were published, and 799 digital books were deposited at the NLI last year, compared to 463 in 2019.
THE GENDER PAY GAP AT THE BRITISH LIBRARY
The British Library reports in an annual study that the gender pay gap (GPG) among its staff has narrowed further in 2020 compared to 2019. Its 2020 GPG was 1.86%, down from 2019’s median pay gap of 2.04%. This compares to a national median GPG of 14.6%. The British Library says the national pay gap for the libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural activities sector in 2020 was 6.6%. It adds that its aim is to eliminate its GPG by 2023. Roly Keating, the library’s chief executive, says in a press release, “We … will renew our focus on achieving parity across this key measure.”
GERMAN NATIONAL LIBRARY RETURNS BOOKS SEIZED BY NAZIS
The German National Library says that it has given back three books that had been stolen by Nazis from the library of Viennese lawyer Valentin Rosenfeld. (The books were delivered to his heirs.) Rosenfeld, says a library statement, left his collection behind when he fled Austria in 1938—after it was annexed by Germany—to live in the U.K. His collection was seized by the Gestapo, after which part of it was deposited at the Austrian National Library, while the rest of the books were “scattered far and wide” through the Bucherverwertungsstelle, a Nazi-run book collection and distribution center. Three of the books came into the possession of the German National Library branch in Leipzig, and Rosenfeld was identified as the owner thanks to a personalized bookplate.