IFLA Report: Copyright & cross-border challenges in preservation
03 March 2023
The Copyright & Legal Matters Advisory Committee (CLM) of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) is excited to announce the publication of a new report titled “Copyright & cross-border challenges in preservation: empirical evidence”.
The short paper is published in advance of continued discussions on limitations & exceptions to copyright law at the 43rd meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), March 13 – 17, 2023.
The paper highlights how cross border cooperation is a central part of the work of libraries and cultural institutions as they preserve and provide access to materials, and how copyright creates challenges through restrictive or ambiguous laws. It presents the results of a survey and interviews with library professionals, as well as a collection of news stories. Case studies are presented from Aruba, a US land grant university library, and a Southern African Development Community (SADC) legal deposit library.
Archival projects are frequently international, requiring specialized expertise and resources. They pose challenges that need to be resolved with clear, flexible, and expansive guidance and legal protection, to enable the work of preservationists with international material where many specifics of origin and rights may not be known. Overly restrictive copyright laws endanger content – which can be lost to natural disasters or poor storage, or left locked away indefinitely in ‘dark archives’ awaiting a distant point when rights issues are resolved. Providing access internationally is vital to connect people to relevant collections, especially those held abroad relevant to post-colonial contexts.
The survey was conducted in February 2023 and received 23 responses were received from 13 countries. 68% of respondents indicated their work had a cross-border element, and 77% believed their institutions would benefit from more cross-border work. 40.9% indicated copyright was either a ‘top’ or ‘very much’ a priority in preservation projects.
Many respondents indicated that copyright restrictions and ambiguities create challenges for workflow, particularly with regard to international material, and that the lack of restrictions on works assumed to be in the public domain (due to age) makes them easy to prioritize. This currently leaves many publications from approximately after the 1920s at increased risk. Libraries and archives may rely on the sometimes-conservative judgement of their larger institutional collaborators, potentially leaving work that should be legally accessible locked away from researchers and other interested parties until a distant ‘magic year’.
“For the most part, we stick to materials that are of low risk of copyright infringement (likely to be in the public domain). Because a lot of the materials we work with are newspapers and other publications with multiple authors or unknown authors, we have to use estimates based on average lifespans.”
“Due to limited budget, primarily we choose to digitise (for preservation) works that are not protected by copyrights – because we can publish those.”
“Copyright changes dramatically the timeline, the cost, and the staff time required to carry out preservation and reformatting work on the item. It unquestionably adds a layer of complication.”
Copyright & cross-border challenges in preservation: empirical evidence
This short paper highlights how cross border cooperation is a central part of the work of libraries and cultural institutions as they preserve and provide access to materials, and how copyright creates challenges through restrictive or ambiguous laws. It presents the results of a survey and intervi...