Europeana Public Domain Charter: libraries, museums and archives support Europe’s heritage

Europeana press release. The Hague – May 25th, 2010., Europe’s digital library, museum and archive, has published the Public Domain Charter. The Charter has been drawn up by the Europeana Foundation, Europeana’s governing body, which is supported by the European Commission. It’s based on the belief that:

  • The Public Domain must be preserved.
  • A healthy Public Domain is essential to the social and economic wellbeing of society.
  • Digitisation of Public Domain knowledge does not create new rights over it.
  • Europeana is publishing the Charter because the Public Domain is under threat. As Public Domain information is digitised, it is often becoming less accessible to those who own it: the public. Policy-makers and funding bodies need to consider the implications of removing information from the Public Domain and the knock-on effect this has for creative enterprise, learning, research and the knowledge economy.

    When Public Domain material changes format from a book or a picture to a digital file it must not leave the Public Domain. What has been held in trust for the public for generations, often at taxpayers’ expense, should not enter the private sector when it is digitised.

    “A healthy and thriving Public Domain is vital for education, science, cultural heritage and public sector information. No society can afford to put up barriers to information access in today’s knowledge-based economies.” – Elisabeth Niggemann, national librarian of Germany and Chair of the Europeana Foundation.


    What is the Public Domain?

    • The out of copyright information that people can freely use without restriction
    • Information that rights holders have decided to remove barriers to access
    • Much of the world’s knowledge – the paintings of Leonardo, Newton’s Laws of Motion, Diderot’s Encyclopédie – is in the Public Domain.

    Why is it important?

    • Society constantly re-uses and reinterprets material in the Public Domain and by doing so develops new ideas, inventions and cultural works.
    • The internet gives access to the heritage of previous ages on an unparallelled scale. It has accelerated the rate of innovation and the creativity of new ideas and applications.
    • Access to Public Domain information lies at the heart of Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits”.

    Why publish the Charter?

    The Charter is a policy statement, not a contract. It doesn’t bind any of Europeana’s content providers. It recognises the dilemma in which heritage collections find themselves. Their drive to digitise and make Public Domain content accessible is tempered by a recognition of the costs involved, and the need to arrive at the most appropriate agreements with those who are willing and able to fund digitisation programmes – including the private sector.

    However, it is necessary to label the rights associated with a digitised item very clearly so that they are understood by Europeana’s users, who will be able to exclude content from their results that requires payment or doesn’t comply with the Public Domain Charter. Rights labelling will become a requirement when submitting content to Europeana by the end of this year.

    While Public-Private Partnerships are an important means of getting content digitised, the Charter recommends that deals are non-exclusive, for very limited time periods, and don’t take material out of the Public Domain.

    The Public Domain Charter is published in support of the recent Public Domain Manifesto. The Manifesto is a statement made from the content users’ perspective. Communia, who have published it, represent education and research, consumer agencies, technology developers and think tanks.

    Europeana, and its governing body, the Europeana Foundation, support the principal aspirations of the Manifesto. The Charter represents the position of the content holders – the organisations that are entrusted with the safe keeping of Europe’s Public Domain content.

    The Public Domain Charter is available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Polish.

    Open EUscreen workshop on Metadata Schemes and Content Selection Policies

    23-24 June, Mykonos, Greece

    EUscreen has organised a two-day workshop on metadata schemes and content selection strategies in the audiovisual domain, to be held in Mykonos town, Greece on June 23 and 24. The workshop will focus on the presentation and analysis of metadata schemes and content selection policies within major European projects in general and EUscreen in particular, and will present some state of the art applications in multimedia retrieval and reuse.

    The first day’s programme will be devoted to developments within the EUscreen project. This includes the presentation of the project’s content selection strategy, a demonstration of the EUscreen back-end, and a preview of the EUscreen portal, to be launched in January 2011.

    The second day provides an overview of experiences and state of the art European projects in the audiovisual domain. This includes presentations by projects and organisations such as the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the European Film Gateway (EFG), Europeana and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). More information about the workshop, along with the full program, can be found here.  Attendance is free, but online registration is required.

    More resources needed for Europeana on-line library

    Press release by the European Parlement

    “The EU’s on-line library, museum and archive – Europeana – needs content from more Member States and further EU funding, according to MEPs. Access to the portal’s material without downloading should be free but copyright must be respected, says a resolution adopted by Parliament on Wednesday.
    Online since November 2008, Europeana now contains about 7 million digitised works, including books, maps, film clips and photographs. Almost half of the contributions to it (47%) come from France; other big contributors are Germany (16%), the Netherlands (8%), and the UK (8%). In 2011 will be more multilingual and include semantic web features. The Europeana office is hosted by the Dutch Royal Library in The Hague.

    More contributions and funding needed

    MEPs support the goal of having 10 million objects in Europeana by this June and call for a target of at least 15 million by 2015. They urge governments and cultural institutions to speed up digitisation and provide more files, especially audiovisual material, “paying special attention to those works which deteriorate easily”. The resolution urges the Commission and Member States to make Europeana “one of the main reference points for education and research purposes”.
    While encouraging public-private partnerships, MEPs also argue that a substantial part of the costs of digitisation should be covered by a separate budget line in the next EU long-term budget after 2013. MEPs also propose a funding and advertising campaign entitled “Join Europeana”.

    Copyright and access

    At the same time, Europeana should fully respect intellectual property rights, although without creating any new copyright or privatising access to digital content, stress MEPs. According to the resolution, “access to the Europeana portal and viewing documents without downloading must be free of charge for private individuals and public institutions” and any charges for downloads and printouts of copyright materials “should be socially acceptable”. MEPs also stress that “the portal should take into account the needs of disabled people”.
    According to the EP, Europeana should be able to offer in-copyright as well as out-of-print and orphan works (whose authors cannot be identified), for example, through extended collective licensing. MEPs “endorse the Commission’s intention to establish a simple and cost-efficient rights clearance system” working in close co-operation with all the stakeholders. They also call on the Commission to introduce a legislative proposal on the digitisation, preservation and dissemination of orphan works, and to develop their database.”

    Europeana has released it’s Public Domain Charter

    Europeana released it’s Public Domain Charter to protect the Public Domain. According to Europeana it is:

    “a statement that calls for the Public Domain to be kept freely accessible to Europe’s citizens. Europeana believes that material held in trust for the public for generations, often at taxpayers’ expense, should not enter the private sector when it is digitised.” (Europeana news letter)

    Digitalisation of cultural heritage that is already part of the public domain sometimes creates new and exclusive rights which restrict access to the digital version. The Public Domain Charter takes a strong stand against this development by claiming in the charter that:

    • Europeana belongs to the public and must represent the public interest.
    • The Public Domain is the material from which society creates cultural understanding and knowledge. Having a thriving Public Domain is essential to economic and social well-being.
    • Digitisation of Public Domain content does not create new rights over it. Works that are in the Public Domain in analogue form continue to be in the Public Domain once they have been digitised.

    The Charter is created in support of the recent Public Domain Manifesto by COMMUNIA. You can share your view on the Public Domain and the Pubic Domain Charter on the Europeana Facebook group.

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