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I2010: Digital libraries

i2010: Digital libraries

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about i2010: Digital libraries


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Information society > Digital Strategy i2010 Strategy eEurope Action Plan Digital Strategy Programmes

i2010: Digital libraries

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission of 30 September 2005 to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – i2010: digital libraries [COM(2005) 465 final – Official Journal C 49 of 28.2.2008].


The purpose of the Digital Libraries Initiative is to make Europe’s cultural, audiovisual and scientific heritage accessible to all.

More specifically, the initiative aims to make European information sources more accessible and easier and more interesting to use in an online environment. Taking as its starting point our rich European heritage, the initiative combines cultural diversity, multilingualism and technological progress.


Digital libraries are organised collections of digital content made available to the public. The content is material that has either been digitised (copies of books and other documents) or that was initially produced in digital format.

There are three priority areas in which the potential of digital technologies is to be exploited to widen access to information:

  • online accessibility;
  • the digitisation of analogue collections;
  • the preservation and storage of digital content.

In addition to our European cultural heritage, another key area for digital libraries is scientific information.

Cultural, social and economic aspects

Digital libraries provide considerable added value in terms not only of cultural visibility, but also of jobs and investment.

Making the wealth of material contained in European libraries, museums and archives (books, newspapers, films, photographs, maps, etc.) available online will make it easier for citizens to appreciate their cultural heritage and use it for study, work or leisure. This will complement and support the objectives of the European Union (EU) action on culture.

Libraries and archives are major sectors of activity in terms of investments and employment. By increasing their use and the visibility of their resources, digitisation could significantly increase their already considerable impact on the economy as a whole.


There are two main reasons for digitising these resources:

  • to provide the widest possible access for the general public;
  • to ensure their survival.

At present, only a small part of our European collections has been digitised. In order to ensure that digitisation proceeds efficiently and at a reasonable pace, a number of challenges have to be overcome, one of these being the remarkable quantity and range of material held by European libraries and archives. The others fall into four categories:

  • financial challenges (the considerable investments and labour required);
  • organisational challenges (the risk of digitising the same works several times, and the need to upgrade the skills of the staff involved);
  • technical challenges (the need to improve digitisation techniques);
  • legal challenges (the compatibility of digitisation with intellectual property rights- IPRs).

Online accessibility

The system used by traditional libraries for lending material is not suitable for the digital environment. In addition, the prior consent of the holder of property rights is needed before material can be made available online, except where the material is in the public domain. Consequently, a European library will basically have to concentrate on public domain material. In some cases, the costs of establishing the IPR-status of a work will be higher than the cost of digitising it and bringing it online. This is particularly true for so-called ‘orphan works’ – films or books for which it is impossible or very difficult to determine who holds the rights.

Improving online accessibility also requires appropriate multilingual services to allow users to explore and work with the content.

Preserving digital content: the present situation and the challenges

Making a digital copy of a book or a film does not necessarily guarantee its long-term survival and so, digitisation without a suitable strategy for preserving material can result in a large-scale waste of resources (human and financial).

In addition, digital preservation is a serious problem for the information society, with the supply of information growing exponentially and content becoming more and more dynamic. At present, we have little experience with digital preservation, the legal framework is evolving, resources are scarce and the outcome of work to preserve content is uncertain.

The main causes of the loss of digital content are the:

  • succession of generations of computer hardware that can render files unreadable;
  • rapid succession and obsolescence of software applications;
  • limited lifetime of digital storage devices, such as CD-ROMs.

Libraries and archives have started tackling the issue of preservation in the digital age on a limited scale. However, within the individual Member States there is, in general, no clear policy.

Although most progress has been made in the area of legal deposit, the scope of this varies widely from country to country.

As with digitisation, the preservation of content also poses a number of challenges:

  • financial challenges (the actual long-term cost of preservation is still not known for sure);
  • organisational challenges (there is a risk that differing approaches will be adopted, effort will be duplicated, working methods will be inappropriate, staff will not have the necessary skills and there will be a lack of cooperation between public and private players);
  • technical challenges (essentially, digital preservation needs to be made more cost-efficient and affordable);
  • legal challenges (as digital preservation depends on copying and migration, it must comply with IPR legislation. The legal deposit of digital material also raises a number of questions, including the different rules in force).

A European response

While organising and funding the digitisation of cultural collections and their digital preservation is primarily a responsibility of the Member States, considerable European added value can be achieved in certain specific areas.

A number of initiatives have already been taken at European level, including:

  • the eEurope Action Plan launched by the Commission in 1999, which was followed by further Action Plans in 2002 and 2005;
  • the Lund Principles and the corresponding Action Plan;
  • the creation of a National Representatives Group on digitisation;
  • the Council Resolution of 25 June 2002 on preserving tomorrow’s memory – preserving digital content for future generations;
  • the Council Recommendation 2005/835/EC of 14 November 2005 on priority actions to increase cooperation in the field of archives in Europe.

Further initiatives will be taken in the near future:

  • a proposal for a Recommendation on digitisation and digital preservation;
  • a Communication on digital libraries of scientific information.

As regards co-financing at Community level, the research programmes, the eContentplus and Culture programmes as well as the Regional Funds will be used for actions with a European interest for the digitisation, digital preservation and accessibility of cultural content:

  • under the Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development, the Commission will part-finance the establishment of a network of centres of competence for digitisation and preservation;
  • under the eContentplus programme, EUR 60 million will be available in the period 2005-08 for projects improving the accessibility and usability of European cultural and scientific content;
  • the Regional Funds already part-finance digitisation initiatives in some of the Member States;
  • digitisation is one of the principal objectives of the cooperation projects part-financed under the “Culture 2000” programme. Part-financing is also available under the “Culture 2007” programme. This should improve the transnational circulation of cultural works and products.

Related Acts

Commission Recommendation 2006/585/EC of 24 August 2006 on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation [Official Journal L 236 of 31.8.2006].

In this Recommendation, the Commission calls on Member States to speed up the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material (books, films, photographs, manuscripts, etc). The aim is to put Europe’s cultural heritage online through the European Digital Library. To this end, Member States are encouraged to:

  • collect information for producing overviews of digitisation;
  • develop quantitative targets for digitisation;
  • create public-private partnerships for funding purposes;
  • develop facilities for large-scale digitisation;
  • endorse the European Digital Library;
  • improve the conditions in which cultural material is digitised and accessed online.

Furthermore, the Commission is recommending that Member States take steps to further the digital preservation of cultural material by:

  • setting-up national strategies and action plans, and exchanging information on these;
  • establishing appropriate legislative provisions for the multiple copying and migration of digital material, as well as for the preservation of web-content;
  • creating policies and procedures for the deposit of digital material, with due consideration given to the measures of other Member States.

Communication from the Commission of 1 June 2005 to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – “i2010 – A European Information Society for growth and employment” [COM(2005) 229 final – Official Journal C 236 of 24.9.2005].

Enforcing judgments: the transparency of debtors' assets

Enforcing judgments: the transparency of debtors’ assets

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Enforcing judgments: the transparency of debtors’ assets


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Judicial cooperation in civil matters

Enforcing judgments: the transparency of debtors’ assets

Even with a court judgment obtained, recovering cross-border debts may be difficult for creditors in practice if no information on the debtors’ assets or whereabouts is available. Because of this, the European Commission has adopted a Green Paper launching a public consultation on how to improve the recovery of debts through possible measures such as registers and debtor declarations.

Document or Iniciative

Green Paper of 6 March 2008 on the effective enforcement of judgments in the European Union: the transparency of debtors’ assets [COM(2008) 128 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


The late and non-payment of debts is detrimental to business and customers alike, particularly when no information is available on the debtor’s assets or whereabouts. This is a particular cross-border issue in debt recovery and has the potential to affect the smooth running of the internal market. In launching a public consultation, the European Commission has outlined the problems of the current situation and possible solutions in this Green Paper. Interested parties can submit their comments by 30 September 2008.

State of play

The search for a debtor’s address and information on his financial situation is often the starting point for enforcement proceedings. At national level, most Member States mainly use two different systems for obtaining information, either:

  • systems of declaration of the debtor’s entire assets or at least a part of it to satisfy the claim;
  • search systems with specific information (registers).

In this Green Paper, the European Commission focuses more on a series of measures instead of one single European measure to allow the creditor to obtain reliable information on the debtor’s assets and whereabouts within a reasonable period of time. Possible measures include:

  • drawing up a manual of national enforcement laws and practices: at present, there is very little information on the different enforcement systems in the 27 European Union Member States. Such a manual could contain all sources of information on a person’s assets, which could be accessed in each country; contact addresses, costs, etc.
  • increasing the information available and improving access to registers: the main sources of information on the debtor are public registers, such as commercial or population registers. However, these vary from one Member State to the next. The Commission is asking whether to increase information available in and access to commercial registers and in what way access to existing population registers should be enhanced. Furthermore, access to social security and tax registers by enforcement authorities may be increased, while respecting rules of data protection and social and fiscal privacy.
  • exchange of information between enforcement authorities: currently, enforcement bodies are not able to directly access the (non-public) registers of other Member States which are open to national enforcement bodies. In addition, there are no international instruments dealing with the exchange of information between national enforcement bodies. In the absence of a Europe-wide register, enhancing cooperation between national enforcement authorities and direct exchange of information between them may a possible solution.
  • measures relating to the debtor’s declaration: enforcement bodies have in several Member States the option to question the debtor directly regarding his assets, whereas in some Member States the debtor’s declaration is made in the form of a testimony before the enforcement court. In some Member States, the debtor has to fill out mandatory forms, and in others a debtor’s declaration does not exist at all. The European Commission is considering introducing a European Assets declaration, obliging the debtors to disclose all assets in the European judicial area. In this way, the transparency of the debtor’s assets would not be limited by the territoriality of the enforcement proceedings.