International Report (June 2003)
By RICHARD POYNDER
Ten leading European publishers have come together to form OPA Europe, a new organization linked to the U.S.-based Online Publishers Association (OPA).
Headquartered in Paris , OPA Europe will work to enhance the business climate for publishers by producing credible research into online advertising and media consumption, benchmarking, sharing key knowledge and best practices with one another, and “serving as the voice of quality online content providers to key constituencies throughout Europe .”
The list of publications involved includes the Financial Times, El Pais, Le Monde, the International Herald Tribune, Le Temps, and Der Spiegel.
Martin Nisenholtz, chairman of the U.S. OPA board, said, “The quality of OPA Europe’s founding members is a testament to the commitment of the European community to creating a unified voice and a sustainable business for quality content publishers internationally.”
Established in 2001, OPA is an industry trade organization whose mission is to advance the policies of high-quality online publishers before the advertising community, the press, the government, and the public. OPA will share joint board representation with OPA Europe.
The formation of OPA Europe comes at a time when the number of Internet users in Europe is expected to climb to 196 million by the end of the year. According to “Europe Online: Access, Demographics & Usage,” a report published by market analyst eMarketer, the next few years will also see a marked shift in balance between Western and Eastern Europe .
While Western European countries currently have the largest user bases, eMarketer expects growth in Eastern Europe to accelerate, with usage figures rising from 41 million in 2003 to 62 million in 2006. Over the same period, eMarketer expects Internet access spending to increase by a compound annual growth of 6.8 percent in Western Europe . However, the figure will be a more impressive 18.1 percent in Eastern Europe .
Around 170 participants from 41 countries have signed a high-level manifesto that sets out goals for the future development of library services across Europe . This document also includes four cornerstone priorities and a 10-point action plan.
The manifesto was drawn up at a policy conference held March 13–14 in Oeiras , Portugal . The event was organized by PULMAN, a European Commission-funded network charged with promoting international cooperation in the development of digital services for public libraries and cultural organizations that operate at local and regional levels.
Conference delegates included ministers, secretaries of state, and government representatives from most of the participating countries. They were accompanied by high-level library figures and public librarians who are responsible for the detailed development of information resources in the countries concerned.
Addressing delegates via video link, European Information Society commissioner Erkki Liikanen described the conference as a key event for public libraries in Europe that would set the stage for development in the years to come.
Characterizing libraries, museums, and archives as “vital building blocks” for advancing the information society, the Oeiras Manifesto asks that sufficient funding and support be given at national and local levels to accelerate their development as “centers of access to digital resources.”
The document’s four cornerstone priorities are democracy and citizenship, economic and social development, lifelong learning, and cultural diversity. With these in mind, the manifesto says that libraries need to “offer innovative quality services—harnessing digital technologies—that empower citizens to achieve their personal goals in a changing world and which contribute to a cohesive society and a successful knowledge-based economy in Europe .” Librarians, it adds, should “seek a measurable improvement in citizens’ use of public library services, especially those who are at risk from social or digital exclusion.”
How and when will the action plan be implemented? Rob Davies, project manager of the PULMAN Network, says the next step will be for country coordinators “to bring the manifesto to the attention of policy-makers, professional associations, and the professional press.”
He adds: “Given the dramatically different starting points, existing policies, and resources available across the 36 [member] countries, it would not be realistic to speak in terms of a common target date for implementation of all the aims. However, we would expect to be able to measure significant progress over the next 12 months.”
The Oeiras Manifesto can be downloaded at http://www.pulmanweb.org/documents/Oeiras_v2.1_5mar%20_1_.pdf.
In 1995, UNESCO designated April 23 “World Book and Copyright Day.” Each year on that date more than 30 countries—including Australia , Finland , Germany , Italy , and the U.S. —pay tribute to books and authors. The aim is to encourage everyone, particularly young people, to discover the pleasures of reading.
April 23 was chosen because a great number of eminent writers—such as William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega—were either born or died on that day.
Ironically, in Shakespeare’s homeland, the event is celebrated not in April, but on the first Thursday in March. The word “copyright” has also mysteriously disappeared in Britain ; the event is now known simply as “World Book Day.”
This year, the U.K. celebrated on March 6. On the same day, it held its first-ever World Book Day Online Festival, an associated event that offered a program of Web-based activities. It featured, for example, a Webcast interview with fantasy writer Terry Pratchett—conducted live from London ’s Peckham Library—and special chat rooms in which adults and children were able to share their experiences, thoughts, and opinions with their favorite writers.
Others taking part included comedian and author Meera Syal, who wrote the novel and screenplay for the movie Anita and Me; novelist Malorie Blackman; and Michael Rosen, one of the U.K.’s leading children’s poets. Food writer Nigella Lawson launched the Online Festival from The British Library.
Across the U.K. , local libraries also organized writing and reading activities linked to individual festival events that involved local writers, readers, and readers’ groups. Schools were encouraged to organize their own linked events by working in partnership with libraries.
How popular was the online component? “Around 20,000 people logged on,” says Laura Creyke , the event’s promoter. “There were 750,000 hits on the site on March 6. Since then, they’ve gone up to 1.3 million.”
The proposed introduction of a copyright levy on the sale of new computers in Germany has led to a bitter dispute between German rights society VG Wort and IT manufacturers—notably Germany’s largest computer manufacturer Fujitsu Siemens Computers (Holding) BV and the German Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications, and New Media (BITKOM).
In January 2001, worried about the steep rise of private copying in the digital environment, VG Wort proposed a copyright levy of $34 on each new computer and CD writer sold. Its aim was to compensate rightsholders for lost royalties from the private copying of music, images, and movies.
When the proposal was rejected out of hand by computer manufacturers, the German Patent and Trademark Office’s arbitration court was asked to adjudicate. In January 2003, it recommended a compromise solution of $13.
This too has been rebuffed. The computer industry argues that indiscriminate levies are too blunt an instrument in the era of CD copy protection and digital rights management technologies. As Barbara Schaedler, head of marketing and communications at Fujitsu Siemens Computers, puts it, “Copyright levies are not state of the art in the Information Age.”
For many years, German law has supported the collection of special copyright fees on the sale of analog copying devices, such as blank audio- and videocassettes. Many other European countries, including Belgium , Greece , France , and Spain , do the same.
As the first country that seeks to extend the levy to digital products, Germany has been confronted with implacable opposition. “BITKOM and Fujitsu Siemens don’t think this is right and won’t accept the proposal,” says Susanne Schopf, a legal expert with BITKOM.
Schopf anticipates that VG Wort will now sue Fujitsu Siemens in the regional court. “They will ask them to provide information on the number of PCs they have sold since 2001 and to pay either [$34 or $13] per PC. The court will then have to decide whether a levy on PCs is lawful under the existing German copyright law and, if it is, what figure is appropriate.”
Rotterdam , Netherlands
The spam wars in Europe are heating up. They are also becoming more contentious. For instance, when Dutch anti-spam activist Rejo Zenger set up a name-and-shame Web site (http://www.spamvrij.nl) listing Dutch companies that send out spam or employ others to do so, he immediately received abusive phone calls and a barrage of threats for legal action.
Zenger himself dismissed the threats as “merely intimidation.” However, when his Web-hosting company, HostingXS, also began receiving menacing phone calls, it pulled the site. “The spammer threatened them with physical violence,” says Zenger, “and they got a bit nervous.”
Thanks to the publicity generated, however, Zenger was inundated with offers to host the site elsewhere. “In less than 12 hours,” he says, he was back online.
Currently, more than 40 companies are listed on Zenger’s site. “It’s quite shocking to see that large and well-known companies in Holland are involved in spamming,” he says.
In fact, Zenger is not the only European to attract the ire of spammers. London-based Steve Linford, who heads up a volunteer spam-stopping campaign called Spamhaus, regularly receives abusive messages and calls. “We get a lot of death threats,” he told The Guardian in February. “At least two or three a month. Spammers actually phone here to say, ‘We’re going to cut your throat.’”
Spam has become so problematic that European legislators have also sprung into action. For instance, when the new EU Data Protection in Electronic Communications Directive is implemented at the end of October, it will be illegal throughout Europe to send unsolicited direct-marketing messages by e-mail, mobile phone, fax, or voice mail, unless the recipient has specifically asked to receive them.
The new law’s effectiveness remains to be seen. Brightmail, an anti-spam software provider, estimates that 90 percent of spam originates outside the EU, which suggests that the new legislation will only stop 10 percent of the unwelcome messages at best.
Liverpool , England
Liverpool city council has announced plans to create a new $64 million digital library that it says will become one of the world’s biggest virtual archives. The project will also include a major online genealogy center.
The archive will feature a $16 million digitzation program aimed at turning Liverpool’s collection of rare artifacts (such as the city’s historic charters)—along with millions of other documents like birth certificates, school registers, and details about people who emigrated from the city—into a massive Web-based resource. This information will be managed in a new Heritage Centre based in Liverpool ’s Central Library, which itself will undergo a $48 million redevelopment.
Much of the archives’ value will stem from Liverpool ’s role as a major European port through which many people passed before the age of air travel. When completed in August 2007, the Heritage Centre will include a “Point of Departure” collection, featuring emigration records for the millions who embarked for the new world from Liverpool, and a “Memories of Liverpool” service that will allow people to submit their own family story.
Liverpool ’s maritime history also has its bleak side. In the 1730s, after overtaking Bristol as Britain ’s second port (behind London ), Liverpool became an important center of the international slave trade. Indeed, Liverpool was the European port most involved in slave trading during the 18th century. By the 1750s, there were eight “slavers” trading from the city, with ships of various sizes. For this reason, the Heritage Centre will also include a special collection from the black community to complement the Slave Gallery at Liverpool ’s Merseyside Maritime Museum .
A free keyword-searchable compendium of 100,000 trials conducted from 1674 to 1834 at the Old Bailey— London ’s venerable central court—has been launched at http://www.oldbaileyonline.org.
The site warehouses the actual texts of trial proceedings, along with digitized images of trial accounts as they were published—including accompanying advertisements.
Site visitors can read, for instance, about the trial of one Elizabeth Smith (alias Drew), who on Dec. 9, 1714, “was indicted for stealing 27 yards of stuff, value 30 shillings out of the shop of Andrew Bonivier.”
Users can also find details of many other felonious actions, sodomitical practices, and nefarious deeds perpetrated by Londoners, including such misdemeanors as “speaking several false and seditious words against His Majesty.”
Present-day Londoners will likely conclude that little has changed in the past 300-plus years.
This article has been reprinted in its entirety from the June, 2003 issue of Information Today with the permission of Information Today, Inc., 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford , NJ 08055 . 609/654-6266, http://www.infotoday.com.