Access to over 50 million items held in trust by publicly funded agencies such as libraries, museums, archives and universities are being prevented from being available online due to current copyright laws. ‘In from the Cold’, a report by the Strategic Content Alliance and the Collections Trust, shows that millions of so-called ‘orphan works’ - photographs, recordings, texts and other ephemera from the last 100 years - risk becoming invisible because rights holders are not known or easy to trace.
The report was commissioned to find the scale and impact of ‘orphan works’ on public service delivery.
The UK’s rich primary resources are being ‘warehoused’ at public expense – with little or no prospect of them being delivered online, to the public without additional costs and/or risks being imposed on the public purse.
The report shows how the UK is in real danger of losing 20th century materials due to the current copyright laws, the levels of resources needed to trace the rights for each orphan work and the potential lock down of access to these important works. Of the 13 million works represented in the on-line survey, it would take in the region of six million days to trace the rights holders, around 16,000 years.
Naomi Korn, Strategic Content Alliance’s Intellectual Property consultant and author of the report said, “Many orphan works, like documentary photographs and sound recordings are of low commercial value but of high cultural and historic importance. The desire for a Digital Britain is not restricted to broadband connectivity alone. It requires us to minimise the overheads in terms of time, money and effort to unlock low commercial value but high education and cultural “orphan work” content for the benefit of the British people from the archives of all kinds that they fund.
“Jisc and The Collections Trust are working with organisations across the public sector to create awareness of the issues, as well as toolkits to help people navigate the complex world around copyright, but there is a real need to engage effectively with the issues surrounding the potential for legislative change; enhancing professional skills and practice; and improving policy alignment in collaboration with the Creative Industries.”
Nick Poole, CEO of The Collections Trust said, “The Culture sector has the potential to kick start future economic and social welfare, but only if we can use resources at our disposal and share them with the public. This report is an urgent call-to-arms for Government and policymakers alike to look again at current copyright law and make change happen before it is too late.”
Over 500 organisations took part in the online survey to establish the impact of orphan works across the museums, archives, libraries and universities.
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