C4C Dublin Event at Trinity College Library – Jan 2012

On 17th January, C4C invited a group of Irish and EU policy makers and their staff, and representatives from business, libraries and research institutions, licensing agencies and the music sector to the venerable Trinity College Library in Dublin to discuss copyright challenges from the perspective of libraries and research institutions.

The event, which was co-organised with Trinity College Library, started with a tour of the old library, where the participants saw a selection of the library’s treasures including the Book of Kells, and a rare first edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy. In addition to the public part of the library, the visit also included a “behind the scenes” tour of the conservation laboratory and the digitisation studio, which are not usually open to the public. This look at the inner workings of the library helped everyone understand the practical challenges that confront today’s libraries and archives as they seek to preserve the past and make it accessible digitally.

After the tour, a roundtable discussion took place with presentations on the practical impact of copyright for libraries and research institutions, with a special focus on orphan works – copyrighted works where one or more of the rightsholders are not known or cannot be located/contacted – and digital preservation. The moderator of the discussion was Jennefer Aston, an executive member of the International Association of Law Libraries and the owner of LawBooks Ireland.

Orphan Works

Toby Bainton, a senior policy adviser at Information Sans Frontières, started the discussion with a presentation on the orphan works problem in Europe. He noted that while libraries strive to digitise works lawfully, it is often difficult to know when a work is out of copyright. This is complicated by the fact that there are millions of orphan works in European libraries : e.g. scientific photographs, letters and little known novels. Though these works may have little or no commercial value, many of those works are of great interest and should be made available to the public as historical sources. For example, collection of children’s books from the 1930s can tell us a lot about the culture of the time. The proposed EU Directive on orphan works comes in two versions and they are not currently synced up. According to the proposed text, digitization will be lawful if a ‘diligent search’ for the rights holder was made. From the perspective of libraries, it is crucial that this process be automated as far as possible.

Georgina Bentliff, representing the Irish Copyright Licensing Agency, continued with a presentation on ARROW, the pan-European registry project for orphan works. ARROW is intended to join up the various databases throughout Europe that contain information on published books and their associated rights so one can find out who owns what and how to ask for permission to use it – automatically, if possible. In short, ARROW will essentially provide the due diligence part of the proposed Orphan Works directive. Currently being piloted in the UK, Germany and France, with feasibility studies in progress in a number of countries, including Ireland, it will work as follows (click here for a graphical representation of the process): a library will be able to interrogate the ARROW portal with regard to the rights relating to the digitization of a particular work. Behind the ARROW portal the request will be matched against the catalogue of The European Library, which receives feeds from the national libraries of all the countries involved in the project. In addition to that, the request will be matched against the VIAF (the international registry of authors) and the database of the Books-in-Print organization for the relevant country (presently Nielsen for the UK and Ireland). This will help to determine if the work is still ‘in commerce’. The database of the relevant reproduction rights organisation (RRO – ICLA in Ireland) will also be searched to see if any rightsholders (authors and publishers) can be identified. If none of these queries returns any rights holder information, the record will be included in the orphan works registry and what may subsequently be done with that work will depend upon the legal regime in each participating country. Authors and publishers will be encouraged to look through the registry and to use the ARROW system to claim any works which are theirs and not true orphans.

One of the participants noted that ARROW helps force subsidiary databases to clean up their records so that they can connect using ISNI and other standard identifiers. Another participant mentioned that an equivalent system to ARROW was being developed for music in Europe to help identify orphan recordings.

When will ARROW be operational across Europe? Georgina said that the current phase of the project (‘ARROW plus’), in which Ireland is participating, is due to run until September 2013. Beyond that, it is difficult to say because some countries do not as yet have their data organized in a way that allows them to participate. That’s why ARROW is helping a number of countries to create national registries of their works.

One of the participants asked Georgina whether the ARROW registry would be fully comprehensive, involving publications from around the world. Georgina responded that the scope was on European books for the moment. If successful it could be broadened to include publications other than books in the future, and other geographical areas.

A participant commented that the number of public domain books is much larger in the US than in Europe, because of the 1923 cut-off date in the US. The practical implication is that, for example, in the Google Books project, only books from before 1870 are fully viewable in Europe, whereas in the US books up to 1923 are accessible online. As a result, Google books launched with 1.5 million public domain books in the US and only 1 million in Europe. As for the digitisation of in-copyright works, it is essential to address the issues of orphan works and out of commerce works. There is a real risk that we will face a 20th century ‘black hole’ in Europe – a situation where all material from before 1900 is digitised and available online, but hardly anything from the 20th century.

Digital Preservation and Access

In his presentation, Yvo Volman, Deputy Head of the Access to Information unit at the European Commission focused on copyright issues around digital preservation and access to cultural works online. One of the major problems for digital preservation is that modern data carriers become technically obsolete within a very short timeframe: while clay tablets held up well, floppy disks are fragile and were only in use for little over 10 years. Many Member States are updating their legislation, but there are still problems. One key legal challenge for Europe is that in some countries, you can only make one or a very limited number of copies for archiving purposes which is not technically sufficient, making it very challenging to keep an archive up to date and make current records available for the future. Another problem is that very little can be done with all the material that is preserved. There is a real risk of an increasing number of so-called ‘dark archives’ – archives that can only be used in very limited circumstances or not at all.In an effort to provide a central, digital repository for Europe’s cultural heritage, the European Commission is promoting a platform called ‘ ‘Europeana’ which has more than 20 million objects in its collection at the moment. To highlight to importance of digital platforms like Europeana, Yvo showed an example of a handwritten letter by Napoleon found in a local Polish library. Thanks to Europeana, researchers and members from the general public can access a digitised version of the original letter from all over the world. An additional issue is that there are examples where public domain material is being monetized and access limited, simply because a scan or a photograph of the original material has been made which can create a ‘new’ copyright – not in the material being scanned but in the scanned image of it. Ireland has brought nice material into Europeana, but there is still a lot missing – including the Book of Kells – and there should be a concentrated effort for all major treasures to be available on Europeana.

In response to Yvo’s point about ‘dark archives’, a member of the audience noted the example of the Irish Historical Picture Company, an online service with out-of-copyright images that have watermarks unless you pay for them. One of the participants interjected that in the case of libraries the money collected from providing access to public domain material is used to pay for further preservation. If the material is free, how is the work to be paid for? One proposal was to have different models for different types of access. This way one could extract money from value added services associated with the content, e.g. a poster of a photograph, without locking up the content itself.

Susan Schreibman, Assistant Professor and researcher at Trinity College Dublin, closed the debate with a presentation on the practical challenges involved in digitisation projects and the potential of large digital data sets for research in the field of humanities. She highlighted that much of the early web material has been lost because it was stored in technologies that disappeared along with the materials it held. The context of the digital material, e.g. the web of links to online material, is just as important as the actual text. This is why Susan prefers the more inclusive concept of ‘digital curation’, including the preservation of context such as interactions, links and lexia, in addition to preserving the artifact. Memory institutions face further challenges, particularly in the area of curating the archives of contemporary writers and artists. Writers who are now donating their archives to cultural heritage institutions tend to provide material in various formats – from paper to hard drives, from floppy discs to recordings – which makes rights clearance complex. An increasingly important question is how today’s authors will consent to the preservation of their work as, over time, formats shift as institutions migrate content to contemporary formats. One of the most advanced large-scale digitisation projects is Google Books, which allows you to read one page at a time without the possibility to download the book. While this is probably not what Google intended they are limited by what copyright allows. Another example is the Hathi Trust: a collection of 2.5 million books created by a consortium of 40 libraries, many of which are Google Books partners. The Hathi Trust wants to make sure the digital record left behind by Google is maintained, preserved and curated. The Authors Guild is suing the Hathi Trust in the United States for copyright infringement and although the Trust does not welcome the suit, it will provide a helpful test in court to move policy on access forward. Susan finished her presentation by noting that flexible access to copyrighted material will be needed to drive more and new kinds of scholarship and research, especially as technology continues to advance.

Jennefer concluded the event and thanked the speakers and the organisers. A number of participants told us that they enjoyed the presentations and that the intimate, informal setting of the event facilitated a frank and open discussion. It was also mentioned that initiatives such as C4C provide a valuable forum to discuss copyright issues in a constructive manner among different stakeholders, something that is missing in other areas such as the music sector.

The next C4C events, this time with a focus on digital media and consumers, will take place in April at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Speakers’ bios

Toby Bainton
Toby Bainton
Mr Bainton spent the first part of his career working in university libraries, most recently as the director of the library of the University of Reading (60 km west of London). He then became (1995-2010) the chief executive of the association of UK and Irish university librarians, SCONUL. He is now senior policy adviser for Information Sans Frontieres, a group which works to promote favourable laws and policies for cultural institutions, especially in the European Parliament, the Commission, and the Council of Ministers.


Georgina Bentliff
Ms Bentliff currently works as a publishing and copyright consultant and was the License Development Director at the Copyright Licensing Agency in London until April 2011. Prior to that, she had various roles in the academic and medical publishing sectors where she worked for more than two decades. As the representative of the Irish Copyright Licensing Agency in its work to include Irish publications in ‘ARROW’, Georgina Bentliff brings an understanding of the European initiatives to address the Orphan Works problem including ARROW Plus, the pan-European registry project.


Yvo Volman
Mr Volman is Deputy Head of the “Access to information” unit, DG Information Society and Media, European Commission, Brussels. Mr Volman has been a European Commission official since 1998. He works in the Directorate General for Information Policy. He is currently occupied with public sector information and, in particular, strategic issues related to digital content. For ten years before that he was a policy advisor in the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, first in the area of International Technology Policy and later in the field of Industrial and Technological Policy Planning. Mr Volman has a Ph.D in European Law, obtained after seven years of study at the Universities of Strasbourg, Amsterdam and Florence.


Susan Schreibman
For a detailed bio, please click here.
  • Location: Dublin, Ireland
  • Date: January, 2012