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Norway library digitizes copyright-protected books, pays authors

The National Library of Norway is digitizing and offering free online access to 135,000 books still under copyright, and will pay royalties to authors and publishers.

The books, all published before 2000, can only be digitized with consent of the copyright holders. The selection on bokhylla.no (“bookshelf” in Norwegian) includes works by Norwegian authors Jo Nesbø, Karin Fossum, and Nobel Laureate Knut Hamsun, and translations of international authors such as  Stephen King, Ken Follett, John Steinbeck, and others. Access is limited to Internet users in Norway.

Royalties will be distributed through Kopinor, an organization that represents publishers and authors. Kopinor signed an agreement with the National Library to pay out an initial sum of 0.46 Norwegian kroner ($0.07 Canadian) per digitized page, which will decrease to 0.30 kroner once the collection reaches its goal of 250,000 digitized books.

In an interview with AFP, National Library chief Vigdis Moe Skarstein said, “Many national libraries digitse their collections for conservation reasons or even to grant access to them, but those are (older) books that are already in the public domain. We thought that, since we had to digitize our collection in order to preserve it for the next 1,000 years, it was also important to broaden access to it as much as possible.”