Author Archives: mattvoigts

IFLA celebrates Open Access Week 2023

International Open Access Week is upon us!

The theme of 2023 is Community over Commercialization. Libraries are places of community, and – as has been meme’d online, possibly tracing back to Neil Gaiman – are one of the few public spaces people can visit without being expected to buy something. ‘The default setting of libraries is open’ is another oft-repeated phrase. We are a place where people can come to access information, without charge.

Open Access builds on the ideals of the library to address more specific issues of community and commerce. It is rooted in part in the logic that publicly funded research has already been paid for by the public, and should not be paywalled by private companies. This is evident in, for example, the US’ 2022 policy update that all federally-funded research should be released OA. It also creates research publication and access opportunities globally, supporting researchers and the public to be engaged, contributing members of the scientific community. OA makes steps toward a world where scholars aren’t limited by their institutions’ resources and prestige.

As I wrote after attending Eurasian Academic Libraries Conference (EALC), in Astana, Kazakhstan.

”Hearing speakers from around Central Asia enthusiastically and the world discuss OA, repository development, and other related ongoing projects, it felt like I had entered a space where OA and related policies were the norm and traditional publishing modes were the alternative. It clearly showed the vitality and utility of OA.”

IFLA offers a variety of resources on OA, including our advocacy-oriented 2022 statement in support of Open Access and 576-page guide to copyright for libraries (published open, of course).  IFLA is in the process of formalizing its OA working group into an advisory committee, which will provide dedicated support to Open topics.

Among the IFLA units and sections with an interest in OA, the Copyright & other Legal Matters (CLM) committee addresses the legal, contractual, and publishing aspects of OA, while the Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE) committee supports OA’s role in furthering human rights and information equity.

IFLA’s Academic and Research Libraries (ARL) section hosted a 2023 WLIC satellite conference with the theme of “Inclusiveness through Openness”, emphasizing OA’s value in “equitable participation in the global research and scholarly communication system.”

At the conference, I was interested to hear about the work on OA being done around the world, including by services like the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) in addressing journal discoverability and curation.

OA – and libraries – help us build community, and IFLA celebrates OA this week and beyond.

So what can you do? For one, read and publish OA! Part of my goals before OA Week 2024 are to clear some half-finished publications off my own desk, and dig more into UCL Press’ OA catalogue (for example). Look to IFLA’s 2022 OA Statement an advocate for OA, and help build infrastructure and alliances! And watch for developments from IFLA, including our upcoming OA vocabulary sheet scheduled for publication before year’s end.


Matt Voigts

IFLA Copyright & OA Policy Officer

IFLA Brings Library Voices to Discussions on Open Culture, AI

What does Open Culture mean for libraries, creators, and consumers?

2022’s UNESCO World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development – MONDIACULT resulted in a declaration that affirmed culture as a global public good. This means States have recognised the benefit that culture can and should bring to all, and governments’ role in providing clear legislation to ensure accessibility and openness.

Concurrently, what ‘Cultural Openness’ can mean has been under discussion among libraries, NGOs, governments and creators. Collectively, we have an interest in ensuring art and heritage locked away from the public and their creators.

As the international community continues discussing what culture as a global public good means in practice, IFLA and likeminded partners are underlining the importance of open cultural content as part of the broader UN Digital Public Goods agenda. IFLA is working to ensure that perspectives from the library field are being heard in these discussions.

Open Culture Roundtable in Lisbon (May)

Johanna Lilja, the National Library of Finland

I was asked by IFLA to represent the Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee (CCH) at the Open Culture Roundtable organized by Creative Commons. The purpose of this event was to start shaping an initiative towards building a UNESCO Open Culture Recommendation. In addition to CC and UNESCO, Roundtable participants came from the fields of law, library science, policy, design, anthropology, history, museum curation, and international organizations. The CC team was Brigitte Vézina, Director of Policy and Open Culture; Connor Benedict, Open Culture Coordinator; Jennryn Wetzler, Director of Learning and Training; and Jocelyn Miyara, Open Culture Manager. Brigitte Vézina also shared thoughts on the event on CC’s website.

Before the Roundtable we met online and shared our ideas of Open Culture. The actual Roundtable day in Lisbon we were divided into small group working sessions and discussions.

We started with the history of Open Culture, which naturally included the history of copyright and ownership. The second step was to discuss the context around Open Culture, including the political climate, internal and outside trends, economic climate, technical factors, stakeholder needs, and uncertainties. The ‘platformisation’ of culture – in which large companies control distribution of media – and a predominant focus on Western ‘culture’ were recognized as risks. Advancing developments in AI were seen to have both potential risks and benefits.

Finally, we considered bold steps that could be taken to move Open Culture forward. More public-private partnerships are needed. Ethics of Open Culture must emphasize a global perspective. Last but not least, economic resources are needed to make Open Culture sustainable.

Picture: Visualization of the third session (© Creative Commons / Abdul Dube and Mona Ebdrup, CC BY 4.0)

The Open Culture Roundtable was an inspiring opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds working with similar questions than we librarians. It is crucial that IFLA – and the library sector in general – are represented in this work which continues in virtual meetings and in the CC Summit in Mexico City in October 2023.

Mozfest, Amsterdam (June)

Matt Voigts, IFLA HQ

I joined Johanna at CC’s Open Culture Roundtable.  I came to the library field from anthropology and am used to considering ‘culture’ as a dynamic, lived practice. It is what you do more than what you put on a shelf. What you can take off a shelf, however, becomes a part of cultural practice and should not be locked away arbitrarily. The Mondiacult Declaration presents an opportunity to advocate for openness and accessibility for culture as a global public good. Heritage informs us best when we can actively engage with it, and libraries play a key role in both preservation and access. Open Culture supports the integration and accessibility of preserved heritage and IP within everyday life.

Creative Commons is active in the area, and its licenses have been important in providing practical ways to share content in line with creators’ and users’ interests. The Lisbon conversation continued in Creative Commons’ session in MozFest in Amsterdam on on Generative AI. The ‘Open’ world has tended to emphasize the value of the commons, which is currently being exercised and tested by AI training models. If you’ve read the news this summer, you’ve likely heard about it – I’ll be speaking on the topic at WLIC as will other library professionals.

The MozFest discussion, however, prominently brought in creators. AI utilizes large amounts of human-created work to enable the creation of new works – and could positively or negatively impact how creators make a living. It could be used to make work easier by taking over time-consuming, menial aspects of jobs (as many technologies have done), or displace skilled workers and their artisanal output with cheap, inferior knock-offs (as many technologies have done). Often the line between the two (art and banality) may not be easily distinguishable – I linked above to the photocopier as an example of ‘technology that made work easier’, but the CC discussion used typesetting as an example of a once prominent, now diminished art.

There are two takeaways I’d like to share I’ve been turning over in my mind. The first is that how we create changes and adapts with time. As one session participant described, our choices are about what skills we want to keep and what tasks we want to delegate to technology. This is the strain of the conversation that doesn’t want AI to do the work of artists and humans to do the work of Roombas. The second key thought is that AI and other technologies should support creatives’ ability to make a living, and consumers’ capacities to access their creations. While ‘openness’ may be framed as something to fear for creative workers, the AI come to take their hard-created stuff, I see a bigger threat in established, powerful commercial entities using licenses, contracts and the law to capture creative works and the tools of creation from creators and the public. Creators’ and libraries’ interests in openness are here very much aligned.

This summer’s Hollywood strikes of the film writers’ and actors’ guilds have expressed concern over AI, which captures both of these takeaways – the need to innovate thoughtfully, in ways that support creative workers. The writers worry that AI could be considered the original ‘author’ of scripts they are called on to ‘re-write’ (and thus they would be denied credit and given less pay). The actors worry that after an hour’s work, AI could be used to modify their likenesses indefinitely. In these cases, studios would continue to profit, and humans would be cut out of the loop. These concerns are less about the technology itself, and more about how it could be used to minimize creators’ legally remunerable contributions. Meanwhile, streaming services are pulling original movies and shows that lack physical releases, depriving creators of residuals, the public of access, and libraries of their long-established role in preserving this heritage beyond immediate commercial considerations.

Creators, the public, and libraries have a shared interest in ensuring these works aren’t ‘closed’. ‘Cultural Openness’ is about more than just ensuring creations remain accessible, but also of ensuring that creators’ contributions aren’t ‘captured’ by licenses. The future will ultimately be determined less by technology, and more by the personal, professional and policy decisions we make about how to use it.

The Marrakesh Treaty Turns Ten: Lessons Learned in the United States

Kelsey Corlett-Rivera, the International Language Librarian at the U.S.’s National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) at the Library of Congress (LC), has been participating in the practical implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty in the United States since she joined NLS in July 2020. Here she shares some lessons learned as NLS finalized legal implementation, developed new workflows, and began to see positive outcomes from participation in the Marrakesh Treaty.

Legal Implementation Takes Time: The United States was well positioned to join the Marrakesh Treaty, given that a copyright exception for the blind and print disabled had already been signed into law in 1996 and U.S. representatives were involved in negotiations. Even then, NLS, the country’s largest accessible library, was not able to fully participate in cross-border exchanges until nearly seven years after the United States signed the Treaty on October 2, 2013.

To amend U.S. law in accordance with the Treaty, the President signed the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act into law in October 2018. On February 8, 2019, the U.S. deposited the instrument of ratification to the Treaty in Geneva, and the Treaty entered into force in the U.S. in May 2019.

Next, the Library of Congress Technical Corrections Act, which incorporated the terminology of the Treaty into NLS’s authorizing statute and allowed NLS to participate in the cross-border exchange of digital content was signed into law in December 2019. Finally, the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations had to be amended in accordance with the Act, which was accomplished in July 2020. That completed the legal prerequisites, but operational execution is ongoing.

Other countries with no prior copyright exceptions or other legal challenges may expect even longer timelines before full participation in the sharing of accessible content across borders.

Different Countries Have Different Approaches: Since NLS was established in 1931, we have primarily provided human-narrated audiobooks and human-transcribed braille books to eligible patrons. Our formats have evolved over time, going from records to cassettes to digital files that can be downloaded directly, even in the case of braille. This approach mirrors that of quite a few other countries, such as Canada, Australia, and many European countries. But even then, formats can differ. NLS creates digital talking books in accordance with the ANSI/NISO Z39.86-2002 Standard, as it offers additional features beyond the older DAISY 2.02 format that many other countries still use. NLS uses .brf files for our digital braille books; other countries use .bra, .brl, or several others. Different choices have been made regarding number of braille lines per page; even the varying paper sizes commonly used in different regions can lead to incompatibilities. Many less-developed countries lack the specialized software and large digital storage capacities needed for human-narrated, fully accessible audiobooks, and therefore prefer text files that are then read using text-to-speech capabilities. These differences mean that in many cases it is not simply a matter of sending files for requested books — conversion work has to be done at some point in the process in order for books obtained from abroad to function in local systems and meet local patron expectations.

Metadata Matters: A great deal of information is gathered about the books that NLS and similar libraries around the world add to our collections. While this includes typical details like title, author, and publisher, accessible books often require additional datapoints. Audiobook duration, the braille code used when the book was originally transcribed, the name of the narrator, and many other pieces of information are necessary for patrons to understand exactly what they are getting when they download a book. Even if a book shared by another country is in English and of interest to patrons in the United States, the descriptive metadata is often in another language. Neither our patrons nor our systems are prepared to decipher words like the Swedish “Talbok” (audiobook) or “Inläst med talsyntes” (synthetic speech). This means that books frequently need to be re-cataloged, which impacts the speed with which we can add new titles.

Central Leadership Is Critical: The Accessible Books Consortium (ABC), a public-private partnership led by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), has developed a central online catalog (Global Book Service) to facilitate the exchange of accessible books through the Marrakesh Treaty. They have worked tirelessly to ensure the platform functions well for both institutional and individual users, and led efforts to standardize metadata and formats to begin addressing some of the challenges faced by NLS and others. Authorized Entities (non-profit groups eligible to participate according to the Treaty) have shared nearly 900,000 books via GBS, over 40 percent of which can be downloaded immediately. NLS has orchestrated direct agreements with entities in several other countries to exchange books, but the books we have shared via GBS have been downloaded by nearly 50 different countries. The overhead required to set up agreements and arrange file-sharing mechanisms with each and every one of them would be impractical at best and impossible at worst. ABC also provides training to developing countries in producing accessible books and advocates for born-accessible publishing, thus working to lessen the global book famine in many different ways.

Marrakesh Has Made a Huge Difference! While countries have faced challenges during legal implementation, and there are many still making their way through the process, the Marrakesh Treaty really has made a huge difference for people who are blind and print disabled around the world. The Treaty is now in force in 118 countries. As mentioned, a huge number of books are now available through the ABC Global Book Service. As of June 2023, NLS has uploaded over 194,000 items to GBS, which have been downloaded more than 5,000 times in 47 countries since 2020. NLS patrons have also benefited, as we have added over 5,500 books in nearly 30 different languages to our collection. A patron in California was delighted to find audiobooks in Persian that had been obtained via Marrakesh after worrying that he might never read in his native language again after losing his sight. Another patron in Minnesota requested a Finnish translation of Tolstoy’s Resurrection, which NLS never would have been able to fulfill without being able to get a copy from Celia, our counterpart in Finland. Stories like this abound, and while many countries continue to work through the beginning stages of implementation, the effort that advocates and lawmakers have put into the Marrakesh Treaty has had, and will continue to have, a major impact.

Copyright Week: Copyright Enforcement Tools as Censorship

The internet helps enable people worldwide to be creative, develop ideas in conversation, explore new uses of existing content, and make their own. It has opened up pathways for fun uses of copyrighted material generally allowed under law, such as memes and Instagram art, as well as more serious ones, such as news reporting by ordinary people on the scene of elections, natural disasters, and other events as they unfold. Free speech and the copyright limitations of fair use and fair dealing play a large part in allowing the proliferation of creativity on the world wide web. But attempts to curb creative output through take-down notices and proposals for even broader “stay down” notices can rapidly silence these robust pathways of communication.

Copyright enforcement tools can even be used as ‘crime and punishment’. In 2017, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa relied on the United States’ Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to silence political discourse and criticism. Freedom of speech and expression – including the rights of citizens to criticize, satirize, or insult their government – can be curtailed under the guise of copyright enforcement. Such actions taken by Correa are not just exclusive to Ecuador; they are also tactics taken by governments and corporations to silence critical voices. 

Current implementations of copyright enforcement often favor large entities over individuals. Under the laws of the United States, the DMCA limits liability for internet service providers (ISPs) who take steps to curb copyright infringement on their services. As such, ISPs take steps to issue take-down notices to allegedly infringing activities on their servers. But these take-down notices often go too far. In one example that set American legal precedent, Youtube removed a video posted by Stephanie Lenz in 2007 of her son dancing to Prince’s 1984 hit, “Let’s Go Crazy” (Prince also had a dispute with the Warner Bros. record company in the early nineties regarding the ownership of his name and music). Despite the video being less than 30 seconds and adhering to fair use, the video was nevertheless censored. Lenz responded asserting fair use, which resulted in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case of Lenz v. Universal upholding her right to post the video, stating that copyright holders must assess if the use of their copyrighted material constitutes fair use before citing infringement. The ruling has still achieved little in stemming the take-down abuse that could be happening at this very second. The repercussions extend far beyond profit motivations, as the implications that result from court cases such as this have also inadvertently given power to governmental entities to silence critical voices and opposition. 

In 2020, US Senators conducted a panel on the utility of the DMCA in the 21st century. The panel highlighted the power imbalance between the individuals seeking recourse against copyright infringement versus corporations doing the same. YouTube’s system assumes guilt on the accused and a YouTuber flagged with a strike, true or not, either capitulates by removing the video or fights against the claim. There is no global copyright law so copyright holders and fair use proponents run up against different laws by country. However, the DMCA works more for the government and corporations than individuals. The current iteration of the law allows companies to tie up individuals, defending their copyright ownership, in expensive legal battles. Specifically, YouTube’s copyright strike system can lead to the termination of a YouTuber’s account after three strikes unless the strikes are resolved. 

Although protecting corporate profit has been a primary issue in these legal battles, this strike system has been used to silence human rights campaigns. For example, the Chinese government struck down three videos from a YouTube channel featuring video testimonies from families imprisoned in internment camps, Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights, resulting in the temporary termination of the channel. The channel eventually was allowed back on YouTube, but lost all the videos it had previously uploaded.

Governments continue to utilize the DMCA to silence their opponents and stifle free speech. In 2020, YouTube shut down independent news sites in Nicaragua after receiving copyright complaints from media companies owned by the current President, Daniel Ortega. Weaponizing the DMCA to shut down opposition voices and news from independent media sources is another example of copyright enforcement tools used as censorship.

The EU updated its copyright rules in 2019, creating a big stir with a particular article, Article 13, in its directive. Critics argued that the article’s protection against copyright infringement meant implementing copyright filters – requiring online platforms to create a system that would immediately and unilaterally block content flagged as similar to copyrighted materials by an automated bot. The EU copyright framework also leaves gaps for misuse: EU countries retain the right to choose what copyright exceptions to apply to national law. As a result, the framework opens the door for governments or corporations to use copyright filters and their country’s laws to control the expression of their populace. Automated filters like these are also notoriously bad at distinguishing between legitimate uses of copyrighted content and those disallowed by law. The issues caused by automated copyrighted strikes has led some YouTubers to take matters into their own hands by creating a database of copyright-free music. 

The current implementation of copyright enforcement tools does not protect the rights of the people; rather, it focuses on copyright owners, especially companies. Copyright enforcement should protect and support people intending to use copyrighted works fairly. By taking such considerations, copyright enforcement tools can benefit everybody by allowing anyone to fairly use the work of others while protecting copyright owners from legitimate infringements. However, we must remain vigilant of governments and corporate interests wielding copyright infringement laws to censor open expression and thought.


By (in no particular order):


Zhaneille Green, Graduate Assistant at the Scholarly Commons

Ryan Yoakum, Graduate Assistant at the Scholarly Commons

Sara Benson, Copyright Librarian

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 



Copyright Week: Fair Use protection in recent US Supreme Court cases

This week is the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)’s Copyright Week. Watch IFLA’s Policy and Advocacy blog for posts on the rights libraries and their users have under copyright right law. Recently we shared a post on Monday’s theme, the Public Domain. Today: Fair Use.

Fair use triumphs over proprietarianism. Consumers benefit from competition and advances in technology – as affirmed and supported by two recent Supreme Court cases from 2021.

In a 6-2 decision the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a significant confirmation that fair use is a friend of innovation, interoperability and good old-fashioned American creativity and ingenuity. While the decision in Oracle America, Inc. v. Google LLC, 141 S.Ct. 1183 (2021), disappointed some commentators and practitioners as it assumed “for argument’s sake” that Oracle’s Java SE Program was copyrightable; leaving no further guidance on the boundaries copyright protection for works of function such as a computer program, it was a victory for the continued application of fair use in the technology sector.

The decision follows other fair use and computer program decisions from the appellate courts such as Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. v. Connectix Corp., 203 F.3d 596 (9th Cir. 2000), cert. denied 531 U.S. 871, that held reverse engineering requiring reproduction of the protected as well as unprotected elements of Sony’s gaming platform (PlayStation) a fair use. Connectix wanted to develop a platform that would allow users to play Sony games on a Macintosh. As the Ninth Circuit stated “because the Virtual Game Station is transformative and does not merely supplant the PlayStation console… Sony understandably seeks control over the market for devices that play games Sony produces or licenses. The copyright law, however, does not confer such a monopoly.” Id. at 607.  The Sony decision followed the logic of a previous case involving another gaming giant, Sega Enterprise Ltd. and its Genesis console, Sega Enterprises Ltd. v. Accolade, Inc., 977 F.2d 1510 (9th Cir.1992).  There the disassembly of the program that included reproducing protected as well as unprotected elements so that Accolade, Inc. could write its own code and create games that would be playable on Sony’s console was also deemed a fair use.

In the Oracle case the stakes were higher than the video game market, rather the development of an alternative cell phone platform.   Like Accolade, Google wrote millions lines of new code, while it reproduced and incorporated 11,500 lines of code from the Sun Java SE Program.  The Java code consisted of 2.86 lines of which 11,500 represented about 0.4%.  Oracle claimed infringement. Google claimed fair use. The Court reiterated the purpose of U.S. copyright is to help society unleash its creative potential.  That purpose is balanced against the exclusive rights the copyright law offers. The court acknowledged that “the exclusive rights it awards can sometimes stand in the way of others exercising their own creative powers.” Oracle America, Inc. v. Google LLC, 141 S.Ct. 1183, 1195 (2021).  This review required “judicial balancing” and considered “significant changes in technology.” The use of the Java code was an efficient way to innovate a new product and this “use was consistent with that creative ‘progress’ that is the basic constitutional objective of copyright itself.” Id.  Programmers would not need to learn an entirely new programming language as “programmers had already learned to work with the Sun Java API’s system, and it would have been difficult, perhaps prohibitively so, to attract programmers to build its Android smartphone system without them.” Id. at 1205.  The Court found this purpose to be an “inherently transformative role that the reimplementation played in the new Android system.” Id. at 1204. Further, Google took “only what was needed.” Id. at 1209.  The court also discussed how Sun’s mobile market was declining. This inability to compete in Android’s market “and the risk of creativity-related harms to the public … convince that this fourth factor… also weighs in favor of fair use.” Id. at 1208. Overall elements of all four fair use factors (purpose and character of use, nature of the work used, the amount taken and the market) favored fair use.

These cases represent support and encouragement of interoperative products and services, marketplace innovation and a recognition that the purpose of copyright is not only to reward copyright holders but to benefit society through new tools and technologies. Computer programs – while not unprotected by copyright – are works of function, a category in which fair use is more generously applied. Libraries produce works of function all the time, such as indexes, outline, bibliographies, lexicons, thesauri, finding aids, abstracts and reviews. Altogether, these open new avenues to work with and preserve content that people and institutions – including libraries – can further explore.


Written by:

Professor Tomas A. Lipinski, J.D., LL.M., M.L.I.S., Ph.D.
School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Happy Public Domain Day 2023!

January 2 was Public Domain Day in 2023, celebrating the works that now belong to the ages (and you!). Public domain works may be copied from, remixed, incorporated into other works and generally utilized for free, without payment to rightsholders. They are viewed as part of the commons from which the world draws to make new art and knowledge. This often takes effect between 50 and 80 years after the death of the author (70 years in most countries). To find out whose work enters the public domain in 2023 in your country, Wikipedia has a useful chart.

Our blog post from last year details some implications for libraries – including greater opportunities for digitising material in collections and building our shared ‘knowledge commons’, as well as charts detailing the benefits of public domain to the social good, by making works accessible after their (often relatively short) commercial life wanes.

While the fate of most works is obscurity as they fall out of print, the public domain offers a chance for revitalised distribution. Nonetheless, many works remain influential. Many blogs have detailed all the works you’re now able to use, and we recommend looking at them. For some highlights (leaning heavily on film, where my greatest interest falls):

  • Wings (1927), the first movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, which features aerial battle action and this impressive tracking shot in a café that occasionally makes the rounds on social media. Still on my to-watch list, and this will be a good excuse!
  • The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, the last remaining collection of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes stories (written 1923-7) that was not already in the public domain. Speaking to the ridiculousness of holding onto copyright ownership for a character so diffused in the public imagination, in 2020 Doyle’s estate sued Netflix over a film adaptation on the logic that the character had not displayed empathy in earlier stories and therefore any story in which Holmes was not emotionally detached was still under copyright as an adaptation of the later stories. The suit was dismissed.
  • Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), a beautiful silent era classic from Germany, which finished at #11 this November on Sight and Sound’s once-in-a-decade poll of the best films of all time.
  • Metropolis (1927), one of the most influential science fiction films of all time and a personal favorite, a key focus point for imagery of mad scientists, cyborgs, and dystopic cities. Here’s a good two-part blog on the film from earlier this year, noting particularly that “Most science fiction builds the future on the foundation of the present — Metropolis is, if not unique, then close to it in extending that foundation into the distant past. Rotwang lives in a house ‘forgotten for centuries’ where he works with an unholy fusion of science and black magic: note the ever-present pentagrams and the alchemical device sitting in his wood stove. The climax takes place in a Gothic cathedral.”

Metropolis in particular is, in its own way, an argument for the value of the public domain, with its vision of a future built on ‘foundations in the past’, as well as its long history of indirect adaptation (while plenty of films were influenced by it, the city of Blade Runner often looks like a more detailed copy of Metropolis’ metropolisand direct (a stage musical, Giorgio Moroder’s version with an alternate 80s soundtrack) and versions of multiple length for the film itself owing to scenes lost during edits made during its early international circulation. Key, plot-relevant scenes long thought lost were rediscovered in 2008 in the Museo del Cine Pablo Ducrós Hicken in Buenos Aires.

While the lost Metropolis scenes were considered a ‘Holy Grail’ level find of the silent era, the film was able to find influence without them. It still existed! An estimated total of just 25% of (American) films of the silent era remain in any known, accessible format at all (though some artists have made interesting attempts at resurrections, including imagining what those films might contain based solely on their titles). Films of the era weren’t preserved when their commercial lives were thought over. Clearly, a system relying on studios alone, which follow a market logic, to ensure the survival of these works has failed.

The above works have stood the test of time to be recognizable and influential today. They are now available to be shared, adapted, and further distributed more freely. They officially belong to a world that had long since claimed them. However, most works in the public domain are considerably more obscure. Who knows what gems are hiding now that they are liberated for further use?

We need institutions like libraries and archives to provide a guarantee of preservation of the works that shape our world – something that over-extended copyright adds to the difficulties of.

So as you enjoy the new possibilities that Public Domain Day brings to enjoy the works of the past, remember also all the hard work by libraries that and others that have helped them survive, and reflect on what we can do to ensure that we safeguard the films and other materials of today for the future.

Happy discovery in 2023!

A version of this post also appears on IFLA News.

A look ahead to Human Rights Day 2022

Each year on 10 December, Human Rights Day celebrates the adoption of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 74 years ago, as we are reminded that ongoing challenges to freedom of expression mean these rights must be continually defended. From challenges to library collections in regions around the world to geopolitical conflicts, the future of the human rights agenda is far from certain. In a recent interview, Suzanne Nossel from PEN America summed up why this is happening, and the implications, 

“at this point I think what we see is a really aggressive counter movement to rewrite the rules, to undercut the norms, to put forward an alternative vision of international order that doesn’t have human rights as an important precept. That alternative order has some appeal in some parts of the world because there is so much uncertainty about what it means to respect freedom of expression in the digital age.”

Libraries, librarians, and their collections have been a frequent target of repression in 2022, as they organised and adapted to address the challenges of the day 

As we celebrate Human Rights Day this year librarians in many places, in different ways, find themselves on the frontlines of human rights, supporting communities seeking uncensored information and safe space. We acknowledge each one of them, and look forward to advancing Human Rights in the coming year

The FAIFE Human Rights Working Group

Fiona Bradley

Buhle Mbambo-Thata

Meg Brown-Sica

Matt Voigts