SCCR27: International Council of Archives on cross border activities

At SCCR 27, library and archive organisations have been able to offer interventions on specific topics before the Committee for consideration. On Thursday 1 May discussions for libraries and archives began with Topic 6, Cross Border Uses. The following statement was delivered by Mr. Tim Padfield, for the International Council on Archives:

Thank you Mr Chairman. The International Council on Archives is grateful for the opportunity to address the Committee about cross-border uses.

It seems certain that every person in this room has used a library, probably many times. Many may also have used an archive. Everyone here should therefore be well aware of how important libraries and archives are as providers of information about other countries of the world, about current events, about culture, about history, about science: in fact about any subject you can think of relating to any part of the world.

The great British scientist Sir Isaac Newton admitted that nothing he did was wholly original. He said he was a dwarf seeing further than the giants before him only because he was standing on their shoulders. Even when writing that he was not being original. He was quoting John of Salisbury, who was himself quoting Bernard of Chartres, an Englishman and a Frenchman who knew nothing of copyright. Every creator benefits from the work of his or her predecessors, wherever they may be. Knowledge of that work comes largely from libraries and archives, wherever they may be.

An article on cross-border transmission of copies of copyright works by libraries and archives would not assist an imaginary group of ‘users’ determined illicitly to exploit other people’s material and to export it around the world. It would assist all of us, encouraging research and study that would lead to the creation of new works. In other words, without libraries and archives the rights holder bodies represented here today would have little to protect.

I represent archives. The material in archives is hugely valuable, but that value is largely cultural not economic. Consider for instance the personal letters to their families of soldiers in the trenches in the First World War, now deposited for public access in archives. Those soldiers came from many countries of the world: from the UK and what were then its colonies and dominions, from Germany, from France, from the USA. Can you really contemplate, in this centenary year, a researcher for a new history of that War being unable to consult such material, now kept in all those countries? It cannot be licensed. No-one could represent the multitude of rights owners in the unpublished materials that make up the majority of archival collections, so the suggestion of rights owner NGOs that their licensing solutions could provide an answer is wholly mistaken. Instead archives need an exception that clearly permits them to make material available across borders to individual researchers and archival institutions.

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