Posted on 28 October 2014

Campaign to free our history - reform copyright

During the First World War Centenary, a collection of leading museums, libraries and cultural organisations have launched a campaign to provide greater access to important historical works through copyright law reform.

Display cases in the Imperial War Museum, National Library of Scotland and University of Leeds sit empty. They should contain letters from the First World War; from a young girl to her father serving as a soldier and from soldiers to their families back home. Because of current UK copyright laws the original letters cannot be displayed. 

At the moment the duration of copyright in certain unpublished works is to the end of the year 2039, regardless how old the work is. The Free Our History campaign wants the term of copyright protection in unpublished texts to be reduced to the author’s lifetime plus 70 years.

Diane Lees, Director General, Imperial War Museums said:

“During the First World War Centenary commemorations, many organisations want to make original unpublished works such as diaries and letters accessible to the public. Because they are still under copyright protection, they cannot do so without seeking permission from the rights holder. This is even more problematic if the rights holders are untraceable.

We are asking everyone who cares about our history, everyone who cares about telling our collective story without restrictions, to join the campaign.”

Up to 50% of archival records in the UK are ‘orphan works’. This is when the rights holder cannot be identified and/or traced. The Imperial War Museum has an estimated 1.75 million documents that are orphan works, approximately 20-25% of the 7.9 million documents in their collections.

The campaign is calling on the UK Government to reduce the term of copyright protection in certain unpublished works from the end of the year 2039 to the author’s lifetime plus 70 years, as per provisions laid out in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act (ERRA) 2013.

Campaign supporters include the National Library of Scotland, the Imperial War Museums, the University of Leeds and the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals.

Supporters are being asked to sign a petition and use #catch2039 on Twitter to spread the word. More details about campaign.

-ends-

Press contact:

Mark Taylor, Director of External Relations, CILIP
Tel: 020 7255 0654
Mobile: 07792 635 305
Email: mark.taylor@cilip.org.uk 

Photographs:

Photographs of the display case in the National Library of Scotland are available on request.

Notes to editors:

1. Campaign supporters include the Imperial War Museums, the National Library of Scotland, University of Leeds, Collections Trust, Scottish Council on Archives, the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres (IAML) (UK&Irl) the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (LACA) and the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals.

2. The campaign is asking the UK Government to reduce the term of copyright protection in certain unpublished text based works, engravings and anonymous artistic works (except photographs).

3. The number of Orphan Works in UK archives is from “In From the Cold” a 2009 report by Naomi Korn analysing the impact, scale and reasons for Orphan Works across the UK's cultural heritage sector. It was the first study of its kind and draws upon the results of an extensive UK survey of Orphan Works in museums, libraries and archives. The report revealed that across the UK's archives, 40-50% of archival works are likely to be Orphan Works.

4. In October 2014 members of the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (LACA) raised concerns with the Intellectual Property Minister about delays implementing provisions in the ERRA 2013 relating to issues reducing the copyright terms in certain unpublished text based works, engravings and anonymous artistic works (except photographs) from the end of the year 2039 to lifetime plus 70 years. This delay means that one of the main causes of orphan works will not be alleviated and the large administrative burden and cost that exists for libraries, archives and museums who have to evaluate on an item by item basis the risk and repercussions of both displaying and using a work over 100 years old, still technically in copyright, will remain quite unnecessarily. It is the concern of LACA members that this issue will be lost in Parliamentary process before the 2015 general election.

5. The Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (LACA) lobbies in the UK and Europe about copyright and related rights on behalf of its member organisations and UK users of copyright works through library, archive and information services. www.cilip.org.uk/laca

6. LACA is convened by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals; the leading professional body for librarians, information specialists and knowledge managers. CILIP’s vision is a fair and economically prosperous society underpinned by literacy, access to information and the transfer of knowledge. CILIP is a registered charity, no. 313014.

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