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Many of the activities of the European Commission have some bearing on the future of electronic publishing and networking, including the development of standards, formulation of directives affecting the legal environment, development of telecommunications and networks, and support of research in advanced technologies. Much of the activity is influenced by the Delors White Paper which dealt inter alia with the need to create a "European information infrastructure" serving as the arteries of the economy of the future. Of particular relevance to electronic publishing are the activities of DG XIII's IMPACT 2 and ARIES programmes and the Libraries Plan. Under the IMPACT (Information Market Policy ACTions) 2 programme, DG XIII/E has launched Calls for Proposals in the areas of multimedia services and geographical information systems, which have resulted in the support of a number of initiatives for the development of services or products in these areas.
The study "New Opportunities for Publishers in the Information Services Market", about the development of electronic publishing in Europe was supported under IMPACT 2, and among the spinoff actions may be a feasibility study concerning a network of multimedia laboratories for exchange of experience, ideas and training, and the creation of a forum for dialogue between players in the field, including authors, publishers, telecommunications operators, information service providers and others.
ARIES (Applied Research on Information transfer and Enhanced Services) is a new programme under the fourth Framework programme which "aims to improve the content and value of electronic information by applying information engineering principles, particularly information management, to the production, distribution and retrieval areas of the information chain". The primary vehicle for achieving the objectives of this programme will be through pilot/demonstration projects, supported by studies and conferences. The three main activities around which the work will be structured are Electronic publishing, Corporate information services and Research networks and basic research.
A Call for proposals for feasibility projects in the areas of electronic publishing, information dissemination and information retrieval was launched in March 1994, with a closing date in mid-June; proposals are expected to address more than one of the areas.Under the Libraries Programme, three Calls for proposals have been launched, resulting in the support of a number of projects, some of which are relevant to the broad area of electronic publishing. Examples of such topics from the Calls are: electronic data interchange for libraries and booksellers in Europe; electronic document exchange between libraries; public access to audio archives; visual arts networks; electronic library SGML applications; fast document ordering and document delivery; a billing system for open access networked information; delivery of copyright materials to end users.
A number of background studies and accompanying activities (some undertaken jointly with the Legal Advisory Board) address issues such as current practice in electronic copyright clearance, a comparative analysis of electronic copyright exemptions and limitations and other legal issues concerning libraries, and the establishment of a Copyright User Platform, EBLIDA providing the secretariat, to create awareness of copyright issues in an electronic environment and strengthen the position of libraries is among planned activities.
The next cycle of the Libraries Programme, under the Fourth Framework Programme, is likely to centre around three action lines, covering network-oriented internal library systems; networking for improved access to collective resources for libraries and users; telematic library systems for access to networked information resources.
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