Libraries should be allowed to digitise books in their collection without permission from the rightholders, according to a statement from European advocate general Niilo Jääskinen.
In an opinion made on a case between the Technical University of Darmstadt and German publishing house Eugen Ulmer KG, the advocate general of the Court of Justice of the European Union has said libraries should be able to digitise books in their collection, and be allowed to make them available at designated reading terminals.
The opinion also said that libraries should be allowed to print copies of the digitised version, though it stopped short of allowing users to make a separate copy of a book onto a USB stick.
In the dispute, the publisher hoped to prevent the university library from making a digital copy of one of its books, and making it available to read on terminals in the library. The university declined to buy e-book versions of the textbooks from the publisher.
The opinion from the advocate general said libraries at European member states could not be prevented from making digital copies and making them available to the public, especially in cases where it would protect original copies that were rare or fragile, or would be consulted by a large number of people and risk being damaged by photocopying.
However, it added that libraries should not "opt to use dedicated terminals where the sole purpose of doing so is to avoid the purchase of a sufficient number of physical copies of the work."
The opinion is proposed as a solution to the case, and will be used to inform the court's deliberations, which will now begin. A final ruling will be given at a later date.