Copyright and Cultural Heritage

Copyright and Cultural Heritage

Preservation and Access to Works in a Digital World

Edited by Estelle Derclaye

Thanks to digitisation and the Internet, preservation of and access to our cultural heritage – which consists of works protected by copyright and works in the public domain – have never been easier. This essential book examines the twin issues of the preservation of, and access to, cultural heritage and the problems copyright law creates and the solutions it can at the same time provide. The expert contributors explore the extent to which current copyright laws from Europe and beyond prevent or help the constitution of a centralized online repository of our cultural heritage. Provided legal reform is achieved and the additional financial and organisational hurdles are overcome, this work argues that it should be possible to fulfill the dream of an online Alexandrian library.

Chapter 9: Preserving and Accessing our Cultural Heritage – Issues for Cultural Sector Institutions: Archives, Libraries, Museums and Galleries

Tim Padfield

Subjects: law - academic, cultural heritage and art law, intellectual property law


Tim Padfield* Cultural sector institutions, such as archives, libraries, museums and galleries, are the middlemen of the cultural world. They are not, on the whole, creators of original materials. Instead they take in and preserve the works produced by others. Those works might be original, creative materials by such people as novelists, scientists, photographers, painters, cartographers and poets or the everyday products and tools of people’s working and leisure lives, such as business correspondence, accounts, farm machinery and children’s toys. Most of these materials are protected by copyright in one way or another. At the same time, these materials are kept and preserved for the primary purpose of making them accessible to others to enjoy, to study and to use to create still more new work. In copyright terms, too, the cultural sector institutions are, at least in some respects, middlemen. They are not for the most part the creators, the ‘authors’, of the materials in their care and so are not usually the owners of the copyright in them. They are also not the primary users of those materials and do not need the permission of rights owners to carry out most of their basic duties. For these reasons, in a position outside the ranks of both rights owners and users, they aspire to be recognized as trusted intermediaries, able to mediate between interests that are frequently at odds. In seeking to fill this space it is almost inevitable that they will be accepted fully by neither side. All...

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