Friday, 15 July 2011

Copyright sessions - Thursday 14 July (morning sessions)

Copyright in Art in the UK (Tim Padfield, National Archives)
Tim gave a basic explanation of the concept of copyright in general and how this applies to artistic works. Copyright is not a human right, but rather one granted to authors by Parliament, for a limited (though possibly) extended period of time rather than ‘forever’. This allows authors or rights owners the right to control specified uses of their works, which can be enforced by law. There are defined exceptions to these rights, and Tim explained how important those are to archives and libraries.

He defined what are considered to be artistic works, including ‘obvious’ works like paintings and drawings; but these also include collages, maps, forms, sculptures and even signatures, if these are significantly different from the signer’s ‘normal’ script! It is hard to define artistic works sometimes, but if the artist asserts that his/her work is an artistic work, this is usually accepted. The works must have artistic quality; courts say if works are intended to appeal to the eye and are the work of a craftsman, they would qualify. However, video art is definitely not artistic work, as it is protected under film copyright.

For artistic works, the standard duration of copyright is the life of the author plus 70 years; this is standard in the UK, Europe and the USA, and is a very long time! If you don’t know the author, it works in different terms - date of publication plus 70 years. Copyright controls reproductions of artistic works; if you’re outwith the defined exception, you need to get a licence to reproduce artistic works (through licencing agencies like DACS). Also, the artist has 2 principal moral rights - to be identified as the author (though he/she needs to assert the right to be identified as such) and to object to derogatory treatment of the artistic work. The important exceptions for archives and libraries to consider are preservation copyright and copying for users. However, neither of these applicable to artistic works! It is not lawful to create a preservation copy of an artistic work, or to copy it for a reader or student. This was not addressed in the Hargreaves report but it looks like this might be addressed soon by the government. There is also a European directive on copyright of orphan works in the works, along with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) considering a draft treaty on library and archive exceptions at their November meeting. These would all be major movements in copyright law, and strengthening the rights of users rather than authors, which is unique.

Learning to Live with Risk (Peter Hirtle, Cornell University Library)
Peter Hirtle’s 2 main issues in his talk were ‘how do I use other people’s stuff?’ and ‘how do I prevent people from using mine?’. Librarians want to obey copyright law but that is nearly impossible as the laws are too complex; in doing our jobs, we infringe without knowing it. He showed quite a few examples of digital collections put together by libraries (including the George Eastman House collection in Flickr Commons, the Ezra Cornell papers and the Archives of American Art), how they did/didn’t get permission to digitise and post the works online, and how they addressed legality. What else can be done? OCLC and Society of American Archivists have tried to establish guidelines to encourage aggressiveness in dealing with copyright. In addition, some sites are publishing images with limited resolution online and using disclaimers to show issues with copyright. Mostly, the risks are low - what bad things would happen? It could be cheaper to put the material up and take it down if anyone objects than it would be to seek out death date information to determine copyright length. In the UK, if someone wanted damages (rather than just taking material down), it would just be the cost of reproduction to be paid. In a way, our desire to follow the law makes us more cautious than we really need to be! But, going back to Peter’s second point, how do we stop others from using our stuff? Well, you can’t! But you can see it as a positive rather than a negative, with open exchange of information. In conclusion, we need to be respectful of copyright, but not afraid; also, we need to encourage others to use and build on our collections.

(notes by Paula Cuccurullo, EDINA, University of Edinburgh)

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