Open Access, IPR and management of rights

Results of the CreativeCH workshop held within the Museum and the Web Florence 2014 pre-conference programme “Horizon2020 and Creative Europe vs Digital Heritage – A European Projects Crossover”, Florence, 18th of February 2014.
The workshop addressed legal issues in the (re-)use of cultural and intellectual content produced by heritage and academic institutions, and approaches for a better balance between right holders and public interest that encourages creativity and innovation in the digital environment.

Workshop highlights

Open Access collections have many advantages for cultural institutions: Cultural institutions should be mediators that facilitate the relationship between the community and its cultural heritage. Open access and “social web” tools can play a major role in meeting this goal. Open digital collections can help maintain the traditional cultural institutions relevant in the digital environment and the participatory/remix culture. Making collections open access allows users co-creation of richer cultural experiences and knowledge, e.g. through multi-vocal narratives of different communities.

Cultural heritage collections in the Public Domain have a great potential to enable creativity and economic growth: The re-use of the cultural content that is available in the Public Domain allows cultural and creative businesses to create new products, like innovative apps, games for tablets & smartphones, new web services & mash-up portals. This will have a positive impact on innovation, employment and economic growth. 140 billion € of revenues generated in 2011 directly and indirectly through re-use of various Public Sector Information in 2011 support this view.

The amended Directive on Public Sector Information does not solve the practical issues faced by cultural institutions concerning IPR: The Directive 2013/37/EU provides a common legal framework for European cultural institutions with regard to the re-use of cultural public domain content. But it leaves out the many practical Intellectual Property Rights issues the institutions face when trying to make accessible content that is not in the Public Domain (e.g. necessary rights clearance).

Rights clearance requirements leave many collections inaccessible online: Rights clearance in order to make content Open Access tends to be an extremely complex and time consuming process. Most institutions have no capacity for such work; hence large parts of their collections will remain inaccessible online.

Europeana standards and guidelines: Europeana has played an important role in creating standards and guidelines for legitimate re-use and redistribution of cultural content. Europeana’s Public Domain Charter and Licensing Framework are essential documents for institutions responsible for managing digital collections.

Cost issues: Providing free open access involves high costs for the cultural heritage institutions. Mass digitisation and additional work (e.g. metadata creation, online access technologies, digital preservation, etc.) are expensive and usually cannot be covered by the institutions on their budget alone. This raises the question of how to sustain and further expand free open access to cultural heritage content?

Public–private partnerships: Cultural heritage institutions have engaged in public-private digitisation partnerships to enable mass digitisation of collections which otherwise would have been impossible for the cultural institutions. This is, however, a controversial issue since related agreements usually attribute exclusive rights to the private partner although the historical content is already in the Public Domain.

Free Open Access will remain an issue, there is no “one size fits all” solution: Despite efforts by the European Commission, e.g. through funding many Europeana content providers, the Directive 2013/37/EU and other initiatives, free open access to cultural content will remain a complex issue and much debated among cultural institutions. Although there are new legal frameworks and advice on standards and good practice to follow, a “one size fits all” solution does not exist. The right approach will depend on the situation of the individual institution, e.g. concerning available budget and capacity, type and size of collections, etc.

Summary by Joaquim Ramos de Carvalho and Ana Rita Costa,University of Coimbra.

Workshop content

Full report of the workshop, presentations, video, additional materials and links at:

Includes presentations by

  • Martin Alvarez-Espinar (ePSI Platform, Advisory Board Coordinator): PSI Reuse: Enabling Innovation in Europe;
  • Julia Fallon (Europeana, IPR & Policy Advisor): Europeana: The PSI Directive & the Public Domain;
  • Helena Patrício (National Library of Portugal, Head of Special Collections and Digital Projects / National Digital Library): Content / data re-use and digitisation funding under the PSI Directive: Perspectives from the National Library of Portugal;
  • Martijn Pronk (Rijksmuseum, Head of Digital Publications Department): Rijksstudio: set your content free. A fresh approach to the art museum web site.

Selected material and links

See the section on “Open Access to cultural heritage content”, written by Guntram Geser, Salzburg Research.