The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has today held in Vereniging Openbare Bibliotheken v Stichting Leenrecht that libraries should be allowed to lend out digital copies of the books which they hold, e-books, according to the principle of 'one copy one user' under the Rental and Lending Rights Directive. This is in answer to the questions which have arisen from the proceedings brought by the association of Dutch public libraries which holds the view that the principle is applicable under such circumstances, in opposition to the position held by the Dutch government.
Thus in its judgement, the CJEU has treated the lending of an e-book as analogous to a traditional book, thereby expanding the scope of lending under the Directive. This in turn means that libraries would be allowed to permit users to download an e-book for their own use, which would then become unavailable to other users for the duration that the first user had the e-book. The Court emphasised the public importance of the lending of digital books in reaching this conclusion.
The Court also made clear that Member States are free to implement their own laws which impose additional conditions that go above the requirements of the Directive provided they improve an authors' rights.
The judgement highlights the CJEU's recognition that EU law must be able to adapt with the changes in technology. This is something that AG Maciej Szpunar's Opinion hinted at following a preliminary reference in June 2016. It appears that the CJEU has taken notice of this in reaching its own decision. It remains to be seen if the CJEU will continue with this line of thought of the need to apply EU law in a way in which reflects changes in the technology which have the potential to clash with intellectual property rights.
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