The National Library of Scotland has joined a campaign to "free history from copyright laws that are leaving valuable pieces of cultural heritage unseen." What's this all about then? Well, it's not all about orphan works (more o that later on) and it's set against the backdrop of the centenary of the beginning of the First World War - and criticies the provisons that certain unpublished pieces are protected under the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act until 2039. This applies to all works created, but not published before 1 August 1989, where the author died before 1 January 1969. CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) launched its campaign to urge the reform of “out-dated” and “inconsistent” copyright laws this week preventing many British institutions from showing certain works from World War One in centenary exhibits of the Great War. The National Library has now posted the blank letter below on its Facebook page, saying “there would have been a letter from a First World War soldier in this display (image shown). CILIP wants to reduce the term of copyright protection in unpublished text-based works to the author's lifetime plus 70 years (rather than the set terms of 70 years from 1969). Many of the soldiers of course perished in the 1914-18 War. The Intellectual Property Office said the government will shortly publish a consultation on reducing the duration of copyright on those works. There is a really good paper on this, andthat's the CREATe website and written by Victoria Stobo (University of Glasgow) here.
That said, there has of course been developments with orphan works (works which are protected by copyright but whose creators (or rather owners) cannot be identified or found) - and as Eleonora reported just four days ago, the new orphan works licensing scheme set up pursuant to s77 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 has launched. This means that it is now possible to apply for a licence to use "at least 91 million culturally valuable creative works - including diaries, photographs, oral history recordings and documentary films" with UK IP Minister, Baroness Neville Rolfe, saying: "The UK's trailblazing orphan works licensing scheme enables access to a wider range of our culturally important works. The scheme has been designed to protect right holders and give them a proper return if they reappear, while ensuring that citizens and consumers will be able to access more of our country's great creations, more easily." The UK scheme will be administered by the UK Intellectual Property Office.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has now given several examples of how the new scheme could work:
- The Tate Gallery would be able to use unpublished literary works of artist Alfred Wallis, who died in 1942 with no surviving family.
- The Museum of Childhood has tried and failed to trace the owners of photos taken for toy manufacturer Lines Brothers, which went bankrupt in 1971, while the photographic studio is also thought to have closed.
- The Museum of the Mind wants to use creative works by patients of Bethlem Royal Hospital, which were often made anonymously.
- The National Records of Scotland could use unpublished historical maps and plans where the author's name may be known but their families cannot be found.
Not that everyone is that happy - last year, photographers and illustrators launched a petition complaining that their work could be used online by others providing they "have made a small effort to search for the original owner" (a criticism of the requirement for potential users of orphan works to undertake a "diligent" [reasonable] search within certain defined parameters). With 28,756 signatories the e-petition said "A new legislation that has been rushed through parliament with no thought has now reached royal assent. This legislation means that photographers and illustrators alike will see their artworks legally taken and used for another's own gain." With more than 10,000 signing up the Government responded and that can be found here .
More here on orphan works licensing from Tom Ohta (Bristows) and more on FREE OUR HISTORY - REFORM COPYRIGHT here. Campaign supporters include the National Library of Scotland, the Imperial War Museums, the University of Leeds and the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals.