Norway makes copyright protected books available for free


The National Library of Norway has made more than 100,000 of its books still protected by copyright available online for free.

Works by authors including Stephen King and John Steinbeck are featured in the project, which has been done with the consent of the copyright owners.

The project, called Bookhyla (Bookshelf), is a partnership between the Oslo-based library and Norweigian organisation Kopinor, an umbrella group which represents authors and publishers.

The website is only available to Internet users in Norway and more than 115,000 books from its collection have already been read online.

Oystein Flagstad, partner at Grette in Oslo, said online publishing was an “excellent way” of making books available to the general public.

“To my knowledge, no other national library has made all of its books (or rather, all books published up to a certain date) that are still subject to copyright available on-line in this manner,” Flagstad added.

For every page made available as part of the scheme, the library pays a small sum to Kopinor, which will then distribute the royalties among its members.

Currently, authors receive around 0.36 Norwegian kroner (six cents) per page uploaded, but that sum may increase if the scheme reaches its intended target of 250,000 books.

The price will apply for the duration of the agreement. However, the agreement may be terminated with effect from January 1, 2016.

“From this date, either party may terminate the agreement and request that the price is re-negotiated,” said Flagstad.

Rune Ljostad, partner at Simonsen Vogtwiig, in Oslo, said he expected the price to grow as the scheme becomes more popular.

“The model seems to work in Norway and this may encourage other countries to consider a similar path,” Ljostad added.

When contacted by WIPR, Nina Brain, head of press at the library, said following the appointment of Vigdis Moe Skarstein as National Librarian 10 years ago, a plan was formulated to ensure that “a library at the beginning of the 21st century means being a digital national library."

“As part of that, she created an initiative to obtain permission to digitise and publish books in full text online,” Brain added.

"The legal framework in Norway … is very well suited for this purpose, as the extended collective license provision in the Norwegian Copyright Act enables right holders organisations such as Kopinor to act as a ‘one stop shop’ for rights clearance,” said Flagstad, who added that if individual consents from all rights holders are required, it would be “very costly and time-consuming.”

The project makes all books published up to and including the year 2000 available to view. Anything published after that date is not accessible online.

Ljostad added:  “The Bookshelf is not intended to compete with, but rather supplement, authors' and publishers' normal exploitation of their works.

“Kopinor and its members' assessment has probably been that making newer books available online for free, although not for downloading, might conflict with the authors' and publishers' normal exploitation of the work.”

Kopinor was not available for comment.  

National Library of Norway, Copyright, Kopinor,

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