Borrow and listen – it is easy and legal, too!

A new national service for Danish libraries, Libraries’ Net Music, saw the light of day on 1. September last, and at the address patrons at a great number of Danish public libraries can now borrow and listen to music online – and it is completely legal. One only has to be registered as a borrower at a library participating in the scheme.

How did it come about?
The new service is the result of a provisional agreement made in the spring between a consortium consisting of six county libraries, the State and University Library, the Danish National Library Authority and Phonofile.

The six county libraries are Gentofte, Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Århus, Odense and Herning. The Danish National Library Authority (DNLA) has appointed these libraries to be in charge of the superstructure function for the public libraries which was established on 1. January 2004. Most of these libraries have had experience with online music mediation on a smaller scale, and the consortium’s task is to handle the joint purchasing of music licenses for the libraries.

DNLA’s role has first and foremost consisted of conducting contractual negotiations with Phonofile together with the members of the consortium Phonofile is an association modelled on the Norwegian example (See also page 12). The association represents more or less the entire Danish music trade, from composers to performing artists, to music houses and music distributors, and it was formed as a consequence of falling sales figures for CDs and with a view to join in online mediation and exploit the possibilities that digitisation offers. The aim is to create legal access to downloading music from the net via a system that guarantees rights owners their due payment. To that end a technical infrastructure has been developed for the mediation of all Danish produced music legally deposited with the State and University Library and being digitised there. The structure is specially geared to the sale of music, but as the Ministry of Culture has supported the project financially, it was agreed to make it possible for the libraries to lend the music to the public.

Where did the money come from?
In August last year the government introduced a music action plan called Liv i musikken (Music alive) and with it came financial support to create better conditions for Danish musical life while at the same time preventing illegal copying of music CDs. Among the many initiatives indicated in the action plan was 4 mil. DKK (out of a total of 100 mil.) to be earmarked for the agreement with Phonofile about a twoyear project on delivery of music files for library use. DNLA contributes with half the amount, i.e. 2 mil. DKK, which comes from the Authority’s special development pool for superstructure purposes.

Obstacles successfully overcome
The negotiations were lengthy, and obstacles had to be overcome during the one year it took to reach an agreement. The construction itself is rather complex, many parties are involved and the idea of online music on sale is still quite new and market price is for example an unknown entity. The entire Danish music trade had agreed to form the association Phonofile, which was a strengthening factor, but it showed its fragility in the considerable time it took when so many parties had to have their say. It also became apparent that as the Danish music trade naturally enough cooperates and coordinates at Nordic and international level, having arrived at some crucial point in the negotiations with Phonofile, London often had to be consulted first. And to the international record trade organisation, IFPI, the idea of lending music via the libraries was even more foreign that it appeared to the Danish members. Losing sales was an alarming thought.

The libraries also had certain considerations and obligations to consider. It had to be up to the individual local authority’s library whether it wanted to join the scheme or not. At the same time the financial basis had to be secured before entering into an agreement. Apart from the money coming from the state, it was necessary to be able to guarantee the purchase of a certain number of tracks to be used for loan. The libraries in the consortium assumed an economic risk in case it turned out that not enough libraries were sufficiently interested to ensure the guaranteed minimum purchase. Through sheer will-power and a degree of flexibility on both sides of the negotiating table, an agreement was successfully reached in the spring.

Music online – a mission for the libraries?
As the distribution of music changes from physical to online mediation the question one may ask oneself is whether the library has any role to play in the future in this respect. And why have we in Denmark made such a great effort to negotiate the agreement with Phonofile to a successful conclusion? We consider this agreement a strategically decisive step towards securing Danish libraries a role in the future mediation of music. There are several reasons for this: Through Act regarding library services (2000) the Danish public libraries are obliged to provide access to loan of music. Of course, the act might be changed if it no longer made sense because of a change of media but here, like in other areas, the libraries must naturally follow developments. There are many advantages for the libraries in online mediation and many good reasons for the libraries to play an important role.

Phonofile’s base is built on the collective Danish musical cultural heritage, and the libraries are therefore via this base able to offer a far wider repertoire than has ever been possible with the loan of LPs and CDs. Music which has long been obsolete on the market has once again become available. By participating in the Libraries’ Net Music, all libraries are able to offer their users a far greater choice. This applies not least to the smaller libraries that have only been able to purchase a very limited music collection. Online music does not require shelf space, packaging or manual handling in the libraries.

There are, however, still good reasons for going to the library to borrow music, because the library can offer you the kind of expertise and knowledge that might not always be available through other channels.

Looked at from a library professional and library political angle, the Libraries’ Net Music does break with some fundamental principles: One is the definition of a library as an edited collection. The Danish library act states that “The objective of the public libraries shall be achieved by observing quality, comprehensiveness and topicality in the choice of materials to be made available”. (Act regarding library services, 2000, §2). A professional prerequisite for entering into the agreement with Phonofile has been that it should be possible to exert a degree of choice of the materials on offer. So far this prerequisite has not been met – other tasks have been given higher priority.

Another deviation from well-established Danish library tradition is a break with the principle of free borrowing which means that citizens are free to borrow from any library in the country in case of those types of material that are obligatory according to the library act (i.e. all materials except videos and feature films on DVD). For the sake of the libraries’ budget control it has been necessary to limit the service to borrowers in those local authorities that have joined the scheme. Music CDs can still be borrowed from all Danish libraries – net music is an extra service.

Content of the base
In principle Phonofile’s base gives access to all Danish music, defined as music composed by, having texts by or being performed by Danish artists. In practice this means Danish CDs from 1982 when the first CD was produced in Denmark and up until today. The base increases as the State and University Library digitises the recordings and these are released by the rights holders. The potential is about 320,000 tracks and at the moment the Libraries’ Net Music is able to offer just over 75,000 tracks.

Registration and search facilities
Legitimate criticism has been voiced in professional circles as to the search and display facilities in the lending system. They do not match up to general library standards. But hard work on behalf of the parties involved, i.e. Phonofile, Phonofile’s technical supplier, the consortium libraries and not least the State and University Library, has gradually straightened out the problems, and several improvements are in the pipeline. One of the problems is that library cataloguing has so far been on CDlevel, while the online world operates on track level and an adjustment in this respect is certainly desirable.

In anticipation of the opening
The library consortium has since the agreement was concluded in the spring and up until the opening on 1. September been preparing enthusiastically for the new library service. The State and University Library has been in charge of the project and together with Phonofile and the other consortium libraries been responsible for development and launching of lending system, development of solutions for connection to the libraries’ user registers, adapted to the different library systems, and for the registration systems used by the libraries.

An important element of the libraries’ offer regarding online music, has been competency development of library staff, first of all the librarians in charge of the mediation of the new service. A team of trainers has completed a competency development programme in connection with the implementation of the library act of 2000 that made the loan of music obligatory for the libraries. The trainers are competent professionals who have also taken a course in pedagogics and have since instructed colleagues in the mediation of the new media. In 2004 focus was to be on mediation of online music, particularly the Phonofile model. Trainers have therefore offered instruction to all registered libraries prior to the opening.

Who wanted to take part?
The sales model of the agreement is built on a pay-per-play principle. The libraries pay a basic amount in relation to the number of people in the local authority. Via the Danish National Library Authority’s Development Pool, the smallest local authorities also have the possibility of a discount according to the principle of ‘first come, first served’. The basic amount covers technological solution, technical support and a number of loans. Additional loans may be bought. As per 1. November 118 libraries have joined the scheme – which means access for more than 70% of the population.

A model for lending
The Libraries’ Net Music allows you to borrow individual tracks – so far not complete albums.

Tracks can be borrowed for one or seven days at a time. The system has an inbuilt quota for each borrower for a limited period of time so that the libraries are able to monitor usage. Each library is entitled to determine the size of the quota.

Apart from being able to borrow, patrons are also offered the chance to buy the music files. This happens through transfer to a shop that sells the music in question. This possibility has been of particular importance to the minister of culture in his wish to support Danish musical life and in the argumentation put forward to the music branch who feared that loans would damage sales. During the negotiations we have argued that the libraries will act as a display window for the music and in that way boost sales. A clause in the agreement stipulates that the libraries are to receive financial compensation for loans that lead to sales.

The music is protected by a technology called DRM (Digital Rights Management), developed by Microsoft, and can therefore at the moment only be played back on a PC with the Microsoft control system Windows. This fact has caused complaints to be voiced by users of Mac and Linux and so far no solution has been found to this problem. The chosen copy protection system was bought by Phonofile as the system most trusted by the music business.

Status and future perspectives
So at this moment music could be said to be ‘in the air’ and even ‘on the air’, and many libraries apart from members of the consortium have ventured ahead with the experiment. But the challenge still remains. Over the first three months, the borrowers have made 83,500 downloads. Considering that not all of the current 118 participating libraries have been partners from the start, and that the use of services naturally enough increases as time goes on, the lending figures are a long way off the anticipated 1.5 mil. downloads during the first year. The libraries are therefore facing a major marketing task and the project still needs to be further developed. First of all more content is needed for the base.

But it is also essential that it becomes possible to listen to music on platforms other than PCs with Microsoft control system. A product needs to be developed which will mean that music can also bee played on portable equipment like for example mp3 players which are particularly popular with the young.

Translated by Vibeke Cranfield

Chief Consultant Danish Agency for Culture, libraries