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You are hereThe New Renaissance, Report of the 'Comité des Sages' Reflection group on bringing Europe's Cultural Heritage online

The New Renaissance, Report of the 'Comité des Sages' Reflection group on bringing Europe's Cultural Heritage online

TitleThe New Renaissance, Report of the 'Comité des Sages' Reflection group on bringing Europe's Cultural Heritage online
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsEuropean Union, & Comité des Sages
PublisherEuropean Union
Place PublishedBrussels
Keywordsaccess, collections online, cultural policy, Europe, intellectual property, open access

For centuries, libraries, archives and museums from across Europe have been the custodians of our rich and diverse cultural heritage. They have preserved and provided access to the testimonies of knowledge, beauty and imagination, such as sculptures, paintings, music and literature. The new information technologies have created unbelievable opportunities to make this common heritage more accessible for all. Culture is following the digital path and "memory institutions" are adapting the way in which they communicate with their public.

Digitisation breathes new life into material from the past, and turns it into a formidable asset for the individual user and an important building block of the digital economy.

We are of the opinion that the public sector has the primary responsibility for making our cultural heritage accessible and preserving it for future generations. This responsibility for and control over Europe’s heritage cannot be left to one or a few market players, although we strongly encourage the idea of bringing more private investments and companies into the digitisation arena through a fair and balanced partnership.

Digitising our cultural heritage is a gigantic task that requires large investments. According to a study, in total some €100bn will be necessary over time to bring our complete heritage online. This type of effort needs time and the investment will need to be carefully planned and co-ordinated in order to get the best results.

We think that the benefits are worth the effort. These benefits are in the first place related to the wider access to and democratisation of culture and knowledge, as well as the benefits for the educational system - both schools and universities. Other major benefits lie in the economic sphere and concern the development of new technologies and services for digitisation, for digital preservation and for interacting in innovative ways with the cultural material. The digitised material can in itself be a driver of innovation and be at the basis of new services in sectors such as tourism and learning.

We make our recommendations with these potential benefits in mind and with the aim to promote an environment that will help to: - share our rich and diverse common heritage - link the past with the present - preserve this heritage for future generations - protect the interests of European creators - nurture creativity, including creative efforts by non-professionals - contribute to education, and - spur innovation and entrepreneurship.

The recommendations concern all the areas identified by the terms of reference for our work, and address situations where we think that a stimulus is necessary or barriers need to be removed.

1) Ensuring wide access to and use of digitised public domain material

* Cultural institutions should make public domain material digitised with public funding as widely available as possible for access and re-use. This cross-border access should be part of the funding conditions for digitisation across Europe. The use of intrusive watermarks or other means that limit the use of the material should be avoided.

* Where cultural institutions charge private companies for the re-use of the digitised public domain material, they should comply with the rules of the European Directive on the re-use of public sector information.

* The European Commission should consider ways and means to eliminate the differences in the rights status of digitised material between the Member States in a context where cross-border access and use is the norm. In principle the mere digitisation process should not generate any new rights.

* Metadata related to the digitised objects produced by the cultural institutions should be widely and freely available for re-use.

2) Stimulating the digitisation and online accessibility of in-copyright material

* A European legal instrument for orphan works needs to be adopted as soon as possible. The instrument should comply with the 8-step-test as defined by the Comité.

* Future orphan works must be avoided. Some form of registration should be considered as a precondition for a full exercise of rights. A discussion on adapting the Berne Convention on this point in order to make it fit for the digital age should be taken up in the context of WIPO and promoted by the European Commission.

* National governments and the European Commission should promote solutions for the digitisation of and cross-border access to out of distribution works.

* Rights holders should be the first to exploit out of distribution works.

* For cultural institutions collective licensing solutions and a window of opportunity should be backed by legislation, to digitise and bring out of distribution works online, if rights holders and commercial providers do not do so.

* Solutions for orphan works and out of distribution works must cover all the different sectors: audiovisual, text, visual arts, sound.

3) Reinforcing Europeana as the reference point for European culture online

* Europeana should be further developed to become the reference point for European cultural content online. This requires a concentration of financial efforts and political capital at European and at the national level for the development of the Europeana site and the underlying structures.

* Member States should ensure that all public funding for digitisation is conditional on the subsequent free accessibility of the digitised material through Europeana. They should also ensure that, by 201 , they have brought all their public domain masterpieces into Europeana.

* In the coming few years, Europeana should add to its portal an application platform, and main activities related to the digitisation and preservation of Europe's cultural heritage should be linked to the site. In the technical development of the site particular attention should be paid to multilingual aspects. Europeana should also explore the opportunities of cloud computing in the future.

* For the medium term, it should be considered to give Europeana a key role in the preservation of Europe's heritage and to turn it into a European deposit site for public domain digitised cultural material and into a dark archive1 for born digital cultural material.

* Europeana must be actively and widely promoted by the cultural institutions, by the European Commission and by the Member States.

4) Guaranteeing the sustainability of digitised resources

* Preservation is a key aspect in digitisation efforts. Digital preservation is also a core problem for any born digital content. The organisational, legal, technical, and financial dimensions of long term preservation of digitised and born digital material should be given due attention.

* The preservation of digitised and born digital cultural material should be the responsibility of cultural institutions - as it is now for non-digital material.

* To guarantee the preservation of the European digital cultural heritage, a copy of digitised or born digital cultural material should be archived at Europeana. For incopyright works the deposit site would be a dark archive functioning as a safe harbour.

* To avoid duplication of effort by companies operating across borders and by the cultural institutions, a system could be envisaged by which any material that now needs to be deposited in several countries would only be deposited once. This system would include a workflow for passing on the copy to any institution that has a right to it under national deposit legislation.

* Copyright and related legislation have to enable the cultural heritage institutions responsible for preservation to create archival copies and to make file conversions for archival purposes.

* Persistent identifiers must be implemented in each digital object archived in cultural institutions. A reliable resolution service for persistent identification of digital objects must be developed and maintained on European level, preferably linked to Europeana.

5) Finding sustainable financing for digitisation and Europeana

* The public sector has the primary responsibility to fund digitisation, and Member States will need to considerably step up their investments in digitisation. The current financial crisis cannot be ignored, but equally cannot be a reason for not acting.

* The involvement of private partners should be encouraged. Private funding for digitisation is a complement to the necessary public investments and should not be seen as a substitute for public funding.

* Digitisation should in principle be funded at the national or regional level, not at the European level. However, the Member States should be strongly encouraged to use the funding possibilities from the European Structural Funds for digitisation activities. Also, some targeted digitisation efforts with a clear cross-border scope (e.g. cross-border collections) could be co-funded at European level.

* Given Europeana’s character as a common good, public funding should cover the largest part of Europeana’s operational costs, also after 2013. The funding of digitisation and of Europeana should be seen as a package, where MS are broadly responsible for funding the digitisation of their cultural heritage and creating national aggregators and where the funding of the Europeana portal should come predominantly from the budget of the European Union.

* Member States should promote ways to turn digitisation into new development opportunities for European firms, for example through regional clusters of businesses in partnership with cultural institutions, knowledge partnerships between cultural institutions and universities, or through strategic partnerships at European or international level in the area of new technologies and applications in relation to cultural heritage.

6) Complementing public funding through public private partnerships for digitisation

* In order to protect the interests of public institutions entering into a partnership with a private partner a set of minimum conditions should be respected:

o The contents of the agreement between a public cultural institution and a private partner should be made public.

o The digitised public domain material should be free of charge for the general public and available in all EU Member States.

o The private partner should provide cultural institutions with digitised files of the same quality as the ones it uses itself.

* The maximum time of preferential use of material digitised in public-private partnerships must not exceed 7 years. This period is considered adequate to generate, on one hand, incentives for private investment in mass-digitisation of cultural assets, and, on the other, to allow sufficient control of the public institutions over their digitised material.

* Policy makers at European and national level should create favourable conditions for the involvement of European players. In particular:

o Encourage digitisation in new areas that have not received much attention thus far, such as audiovisual material, newspapers, periodicals or museum objects.

o In the medium term, subject to an improvement of the financial situation in the Member States, create incentives for the investment of private funds through taxation.

o Encourage the use of public funds matching private funds invested in digitisation. Public funds may be given to cultural institutions which have secured a partnership for the digitisation of their collection with a private entity, on a matching basis with the private funds invested.

o Encourage Europeana and its contributing institutions to expand their digital contents by building partnerships with European businesses.

Can Europe afford to be inactive and wait, or leave it to one or more private players to digitise our common cultural heritage? Our answer is a resounding 'no'. Member States, Europe's cultural institutions, the European Commission, and other stakeholders will all have to take up their responsibilities in order to ensure that Europe's citizens and economy fully benefit from the potential of bringing Europe's cultural heritage online.

Our goal is to ensure that Europe experiences a digital Renaissance instead of entering into a digital Dark Age

Citation Keybib-01/2011
Access Date2011/01/10