Friday, 5 February 2010

In from the Cold - orphan works in digital collections

In From The Cold

The Collections Trust and the Strategic Content Alliance  from the UK have published 'In From The Cold' - a report into the impact of 'orphan works' on public service delivery. Though focused on the UK, it is of real interest to the rest of the sector, specailly down here in Australasia.  So what's the fuss?

Orphan works -  or works still in copyright but with no known rights holder on record - are  one of the banes of any collection institution - library, or indeed publishers.  And as is know, it is one of the key issues which will eventually make or break the Google Book deal.

Scale of problem startling
As to scale of the problem -  I was startled to learn via various Twitter posts  that accompanied the report's launch, that fully 40% of the national collections in the UK are orphan works!  And as Nick Poole from the Collections Trust in a Twitter post has it, all too often , 'orphans aren't born, they're made through poor documentation practice'

I have no idea what the New Zealand or Australian figures are, but I suspect they are no better.

The effect of the problem
Turning to the effect - the report is clear - " access to over 50 million items held in trust by publicly funded agencies such as libraries, museums, archives and universities are being prevented from being available online due to current copyright laws"

This means that millions of so-called ‘orphan works' - photographs, recordings, texts and other ephemera from the last 100 years - risk becoming invisible because rights holders are not known or easy to trace.

In From The Cold report (PDF)


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