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Licensing service for out-of-commerce works (VW-LiS)

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As of 25 September, new opportunities will be opening up for licensing out-of-commerce works: from now on, you will also be able to license titles that are not recorded in the German National Library’s catalogue.

Sections 51 and 52 of the German Collecting Societies Act (VGG), which address the subject of out-of-commerce works, have opened up new opportunities for digitalising and granting free access to printed works published during the 20th century.
The DNB has therefore set up a licensing service to make it easier for the DNB and other memory institutions to research and apply for user licenses for out-of-commerce printed works through the respective collecting societies. This service is run in cooperation with the collecting society (VG) Wort and the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA).

Legal basis and framework agreement on the use of out-of-commerce works in books

VG Wort is authorised to issue licenses for the use of out-of-commerce printed works under the conditions specified in section § 51, and § 52 VGG and the framework agreement on the use out-of-commerce publications in books. VG Wort The work in question must have been published in books, journals, newspapers, periodicals or other texts in Germany before 1 January 1966 and be part of the physical collection of the institution wishing to acquire a license. The work must also be out-of-commerce in the book trade, i.e. it is no longer offered by any publisher. The law and the framework agreement grant privileged institutions (public libraries, educational institutions, museums, archives, and institutions that preserve Germany’s heritage of films and sound recordings) the right to duplicate these works and make them publicly accessible solely for the purpose of use in digital collections and excluding use for commercial purposes.

Licensing and registration

VG Wort grants licences for the use of out-of-commerce publications upon payment of a fee. Before a licence can be issued for a publication, it must first be entered in the DPMA's register of out-of-commerce publications. If no objection is raised by a rights owner within the legally stipulated period of six weeks, the licence can be issued.
The registration and remuneration costs are specified in Article 7 of the framework agreement for the use of out-of-commerce works in books and in the ordinance on the register of out-of-commerce publications.

Licenses for the use of out-of-commerce works are issued by VG Wort against payment of a fee. Before such a license can be granted for a specific work, it must first be entered into the DPMA’s register of out-of-commerce works. The license can then be issued if no objections are lodged by any party with rights to the work within a legally stipulated period of six weeks. The registration costs and fees are regulated in section 7 of the framework agreement for the use of out-of-commerce works in books and the ordinance on the register of out-of commerce works.

Licensing service for out-of-commerce works of the German National Library

The DNB developed a service to help privileged institutions retrieve and obtain licenses for out-of-commerce publications via the VG Wort collecting society. The preconditions for using the licensing service are that the institution be registered with the DNB for a service user account, and that the institution has signed the framework agreement. The process has largely been automated, keeping the amount of effort involved to a minimum for all parties. The DNB provides the licensing service free of charge.

Registration for VW-LiS and inclusion in framework agreement:
In order to register your institution with the licensing service for out-of-commerce works (VW-LiS), please send an e-mail to We will then contact you without delay to set up your user account. The form requesting inclusion in the framework agreement for the use of out-of-commerce works in books is available from VG Wort directly, immediately after you have requested your first license.

The licensing service makes it easier to track down out-of-commerce publications:
You can only acquire a license to use a work if it is out-of-commerce. The DNB reviews the availability of all works that meet the statutory requirements (section 51 VGG) and are indexed in the DNB catalogue by performing an automated comparison with book trade lists. An institution can establish the availability of works for which it is planning to obtain licenses by searching the DNB catalogue, searching network IDs or uploading lists of up to 1,000 titles for processing. It can then proceed from the search results straight to the license application.

The licensing service simplifies the purchase of licences:
Once out-of-commerce publications have been identified, the licensing service allows users to apply for licences for the works in question, assuming that the minimum bibliographic requirements are fulfilled (Article § 52 VGG). The application can be made either for individual titles or for a bundled, more extensive set of titles. This takes place in the licensing service’s user interface, from which applications are sent directly to VG Wort. On receiving the license application, VG Wort also initiates the automatic entry of all works requested into the DPMA’s register.

The licensing service facilitates the processing and organisation of license applications:
An institution can establish whether its applications are still being processed by checking its user account. In the final step, VG Wort grants the license directly to the institution that filed the application. The user account also shows whether the license has been granted or the application rejected. In order to select and process bibliographic data that has undergone the licensing process, the license applications shown in the user account can be sorted by means of various filter options and downloaded as a CSV file.

Last update: 26.09.2018


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