Tag Archives: Preservation

Something Old, Something New: COVID-19’s effect on documentary heritage professionals

The shock of cultural institutions shuttering is beginning to wear off. The world of social distancing might begin feeling like the new normal, even as, depending where in the world you are, there is talk of memory institutions re-opening.

For the past months, we have been living in a world without cultural institutions as public spaces.  We’ve seen museums close their doors, libraries exploring online engagement, and many cultural professionals furloughed or navigating their work from home.

Through this crisis, UNESCO maintains the importance of culture, including a call for greater support to documentary heritage during COVID-19, co-signed by IFLA.

How is the crisis affecting the professionals that are working to preserve and provide access to the world’s cultural heritage? We’ve reached out to documentary heritage practitioners in our international network of Preservation and Conversation (PAC) Centres to reflect on their experience of working through the pandemic.

Q: How have stay-at-home measures affected the preservation work at your institution?

 Library of Congress, USA

Stay-at-home guidance has had a major, and predictable, impact on our work with the physical collections. We have had to stop conservation treatments and laboratory research, along with our collections maintenance projects like shelf reading and condition surveys. We are fortunate to have dedicated staff who are able to make weekly rounds in our storage areas to ensure collections are safe, which has paid off several times. The weather is not on lockdown and accidents can always happen.

Many of our digital preservation activities are not only active, but have taken on special significance. We are working on COVID web archiving projects along with several international partners, for example. Our digital resources, and the infrastructures for preservation and access that support them, are more in demand than ever. Our digital content management projects continue more or less as before.


National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS), Trinidad and Tobago:

 Trinidad and Tobago has taken emergency measures to curtail the spread of Covid-19. A Stay-at-Home order has been in effect since 27 March with only essential services asked to report to work.

The National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) has closed its facilities to the public, ramping up its online services and permitting only designated staff access to the National Library Building which houses the Heritage Library and the Preservation Lab.

The hands-on work of conservation and preservation, that is, the direct work with collections – the assessment, diagnostic and treatment phases, as well as cataloguing and digitization – have all been placed on hold.


Library for Foreign Literature, Russia:

The mayor of Moscow announced a regime of self-isolation from 30 March to 1 May.

During this period, only organisations and business that cannot stop their activities due to production and technical conditions, those providing citizens with essential goods, those providing warehousing and logistics services, emergency response, and construction are able to continue working. Therefore, until 1 May, the Center for the Conservation and Restoration of Documents at the Russian Library for Foreign Literature does not work. It is not yet clear whether such instructions will be extended.

The regime of self-isolation was introduced gradually, at first only for a week, and then extended. It was therefore difficult to prepare for it.

It’s important to note that the situation differs between Russian regions. For example, our colleagues from Siberia are making videos instructing readers on how to repair books themselves.


National Library and Documentation Service Board of Sri Lanka:

 The lockdown in Sri Lanka has certainly affected the preservation work at the National Library. The National Library has completely closed for staff and visitors from 23 March.


National Library of Australia:

We are continuing preservation work at the National Library of Australia through a variety of means, namely those staff working from home are working on procedure review updating processes and completing research that often we don’t get time to do as part of our day-to-day business.

Two tasks we are looking into are a complete review of our care and handling training we provide Library staff and researching new approaches to exhibition furniture and material off-gassing needs.


Q: Is your team working remotely, still on location, or a mix of the two?

 National Diet Library, Japan:

In Tokyo, people are asked to stay home but it isn’t as strict as in some other countries for now. Staff in the preservation division of the National Diet Library are split between remote working and on-location.  About one third of staff members work at home or take a day off in rotation.


Library of Congress, USA: 

We are almost entirely remote agency-wide, though the details vary group by group. We do have essential staff on site to ensure the safety of the buildings and collections, but the number is strictly limited and they are scheduled to minimize contact.

About half the Preservation staff have full time telework projects to carry us through the next several months, and others have part-time projects or training they can complete online.

Our digital content management staff have shifted to full telework mode, with some significant adjustments having been made to allow teamwork to continue using a variety of tools to support remote collaboration.


National Library of Australia:

 Our Digital Preservation team is working solely from home which has impact on their technical ability to process collection items. All of this work continues, just a little more slowly. Some work, such as the processing of obsolete carriers, has pretty much ceased.

The rest of the lab team is working on a roster system, part of the week at home, the other at work. This enables our core treatment work to continue and provide support to the Library’s digitisation programme. While the Library building is closed, we have also taken the opportunity to undertake a comprehensive condition report and clean of all objects on permanent display. This task otherwise gets scheduled into the small hours before the building opens to the public or after hours, so it is a good opportunity to do this now.

It also provides the team with good social distancing opportunities as we aim to have a Team A working in the morning, Team B in the afternoon.


Q: What work has been possible to achieve? How have priorities shifted during this time?

National Diet Library Japan:

Naturally, conservation works are slowing down, as conservators cannot take library books home, but haven’t stopped. We will need to cancel or postpone training workshops and other events unless the situation improves dramatically.


Library of Congress, USA: 

First and foremost, in times like these we are very much the Library of Congress, with many of staff fully engaged in providing information to our legislators to support their work in the face of this pandemic. I am sure that many of our colleagues in IFLA national and parliamentary libraries are doing the same and it certainly makes me proud of our profession.

This period has allowed many preservation staff a welcome opportunity to dig into research and to do thoughtful, uninterrupted work to create research guides and educational materials, or to work on complex problems.

This crisis has been valuable in helping us stress-test both our priorities and our procedures. So, while our ultimate goals and major priorities remain, we have learned a great deal about how to achieve them. I see this as a good time to ask which processes were resilient and which need to be refined, retired, or redesigned.


NALIS, Trinidad and Tobago:

Even though direct work with the collections have been paused, staff are focussed on outreach and professional development. Outreach efforts are being ramped up via social media outlets with events such as tutorials on preserving family heirlooms, pictures and documents and other community engagements planned via Facebook and the NALIS website.

Events such as ‘this day in history’ for Trinidad and Tobago are ongoing and online tours of our large catalogue of exhibits and displays are also planned. Programmes that would have been held, such as our First Time Authors, celebrating newly published authors in commemoration of World Book and Copyright Day, will now be featured online.

Some consultative work is still being done, but these pertain to collaborative projects in train before the shut down and these are via the usual communication media and a limited reference service is in effect using NALIS’ online heritage resources and askNalis facility.

One of NALIS’ priorities has always been the financial sustainability of the PAC Lab and the preservation projects and efforts. It is even more so now in the straightened economic circumstances that would exist in a world battling with the pandemic.


Library for Foreign Literature, Russia:

At the moment, there is a process of editing the translation of IFLA guidelines and working on the National Program for the Preservation of Library Collections. Due to the fact that restorers cannot work remotely, the focus was shifted towards methodological activities.


National Library and Documentation Service Board of Sri Lanka:

 The National Library has strengthened digital services during lock down period. This includes assistance offered to our communities via the telephone, and on social media like the National Library Facebook page.


National Library of Australia:

We are maintaining some focus on our main treatment programmes but these will experience delays because of the reduced time at the bench to undertake treatments.

We have been able to address a lot of tasks we just never got to previously and as discussed above – procedure review, some professional reading. Digital preservation work continues – just at a slower than normal rate due to the technological issues of working off site.  

Q: What comes next? Has there been discussion in your region over what will come next for preservation, or over lasting changes to the field after COVID-19?


National Diet Library Japan:

We haven’t yet discussed possible changes to our work after COVID-19, but I am not expecting any significant changes for preservation.


Library of Congress, USA: 

The initial deliberations about how to reopen are starting and preservation experts have been important contributors to the working groups on this topic. The Institute for Museum and Library Services has convened several Federal agencies, including the Library of Congress, to work with medical and public health experts to develop guidance for the field.

In preservation, there is always a long future to look forward to. The Library of Congress is celebrating its 220th anniversary this month and we look forward to sharing our beautiful spaces and great collections for another 220 years and beyond.


NALIS, Trinidad and Tobago:

The NALIS PAC Lab – as an IFLA PAC Centre – has reached out to its regional partners in the form of a simple survey to discuss preservation in the time of COVID-19. We are awaiting feedback.


Library for Foreign Literature, Russia:

At the moment, this is unknown. However, I think that work will continue ahead in the usual manner.

We collect information about the processing of books after the pandemic, but for ourselves we have so far revealed the main idea – two-week quarantine is universal, safe for books and does not cost a lot of money.


National Library and Documentation Service Board of Sri Lanka:

The National Library has issued guidelines regarding the exit strategy from COVID-19 for libraries in Sri Lanka.


National Library of Australia:

I don’t believe there has been any discussion about what next, as the Australian community is still in the ‘what to do now’ phase. The latest from the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials (AICCM) is available here.  At this stage, I have not heard anything in relation to changes regarding digital preservation.


In conclusion

Documentary heritage professionals are facing varying degrees of stay-at-home measures around the world. Despite setbacks and the limited access to materials, work has been able to continue.

Providing support to government, reflecting on processes, diving into research and methodological work, and shifting the focus to digital communications are examples of how professionals keep preservation and access to documentary heritage moving ahead through the pandemic.

As the focus shifts from “what to do now” to “what comes next”, it is vital that this work is allowed to continue forward and develop in a positive direction thanks to the lessons we have learned during this time.

In the words of the PAC Centre at the Library of Congress, USA, “In preservation, there is always a long future to look forward to”.

We look forward to navigating the post-COVID-19 world with access and preservation of cultural heritage continuing to be upheld as a priority.


Catching up on Copyright: Current Global Trends in Legal Reform

As will have been highlighted by many of the posts made today – World Copyright Day (23 April), copyright has had a major influence on the way the modern creative industries have emerged.

It has spread way beyond its beginnings in the early 18th century as a limited protection lasting just 14 years, and now reaches into almost every corner of our lives.

It is so powerful, indeed, that even from the beginning of international law-making in the area, it was recognised that it should not be absolute. Just as it enabled authors and creators – or often the companies that bought and traded their rights – to earn a living, it could also bring dangers.

Copyright legislators have therefore sought to intervene in order to help the system work most efficiently. This comes both in terms of finding ways to simplify the way the system works where it is appropriate to charge for access to – or use of – works, and to create and enforce exceptions there would otherwise be market failure.

So how have things been developing since the last World Copyright Day? Below we set out a few trends:


Sorting out the Basics: despite these being seemingly core elements of free speech, it’s not in every country that there is the possibility freely to quote someone else, or to carry out criticism, make jokes, or review. The lack of such rules can allow copyright too easily to become a tool of censorship and control.

Fortunately, there have been steps forwards in Kenya and Myanmar (which previously was working with a law from 1911 inherited from the colonial period). In both countries, exceptions allowing for quotation, parody and criticism have been put in place.

However, some countries still lag behind, notably in Latin America where a number of states still have no meaningful copyright law containing exceptions. Long efforts by the library sector in Uruguay have been frustrated for now, with the government simply pushing through an unnecessary term extension, while it remains unclear what the Brazilian government will propose. Argentina too, beyond a welcome move to allow enjoyment of the rights created by the Marrakesh Treaty, still has some way to go before a full and modern copyright law is in place.


Enabling Digital Uses: a core focus of much library advocacy around copyright reform has been the drive to update copyright laws for the digital age. Provisions in existing laws – limiting the number of copies taken, specifying a format or method to be used, or explicit exclusion – can all make it impossible for libraries to take advantage of new opportunities.

There has been progress over the past year. Text-and-data mining (TDM) has proved to be a continuing area of uncertainty for many, given that while copies are made, these are usually exclusively part of the analysis process.

To resolve this, we have seen Switzerland and Ireland introduce or strengthen laws which make it clear that this is permissible, at least for non-commercial purposes. Singapore has gone further still in its own proposals, underlining that it should be possible regardless of the purpose, given that TDM causes no harm to original markets, and efforts to control it would likely limit innovation. Myanmar’s new law also opens the way to TDM.

Canada’s Industry, Science and Technology Committee also called for a broad TDM exception in its review of the country’s 2012 reforms. As focus increases on artificial intelligence – which often draws on TDM in order to train machines – it can be hoped that other governments will understand the need for strong exceptions in order to facilitate innovation in this space.

Similarly, there have been steps towards facilitating digital preservation. Myanmar, Switzerland and Ireland have both expanded exceptions to allow for preservation copying through digitisation, giving them more scope to safeguard their history for the future. Draft laws in the Philippines look to do the same.

However, not all is positive, with Kenya missing an opportunity to expand its own preservation provisions. Sadly, this will help continue the imbalance in laws that will give institutions in some countries a greater ability than others to fulfil their mission as guardians of memory.


Closing Loopholes: a major concern linked to greater reliance on digital resources is the opportunity that technological protection measures (TPMs), and the primacy of freedom of contract provide to hollow out exceptions.

TPMs can create practical restrictions on how libraries or their users make use of works, even preventing activities that would ordinarily be protected. Badly drafted laws will nonetheless criminalise the circumvention or removal of such measures.

Meanwhile, unless governments make it clear that they are not enforceable, the terms of contracts for digital content can be used to forbid uses, such as lending or document supply.

We have seen more progress on TPMs in the last year. In both Kenya and Myanmar, it has been made clear that libraries and others need to be able to enjoy copyright exceptions. The proposed Lebanese law includes the same idea, and we have seen calls for this in Canada.

Nonetheless, this is not the case everywhere. The Philippines draft law only refers to penalties for circumventing TPMs, rather than offering clarity to libraries. We will also need to see how European countries, in implementing the new copyright Directive, look to ensure that TPMs cannot be used to frustrate legitimate activities.

Meanwhile, the very promising provisions in South African law, ensuring that rightholders cannot use their negotiating power to deprive libraries and users of their rights under copyright exceptions, are still in limbo due to delay by the President in signing the law.

Unfortunately, neither Kenya nor Myanmar included provisions to prevent override by contract. However, we will see a number of European countries obliged to introduce such measures as they implement the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. We can hope that they will take the opportunity to extend this to other exceptions enabling public interest activities.


Realism on Rights Management: The argument that collective management can remove all of the complexities involved in making copyright work can be attractive. With many small (and a few large) producers trying to engage with many small (and a few large) consumers, an intermediary can make life much simpler. We have seen collective management organisations (CMOs) given new powers to offer licences in Kenya and Switzerland for example.

However, this is also a role of major responsibility. Good collective management can help realise the promise of copyright, and ensure that creators are fairly remunerated. Bad, over-reaching collective management can serve to bully libraries and users, undermine the public interest goals of exceptions, and still do little to improve the lives of creators.

Many governments are coming to see the need for tighter regulation and control of CMOs, with new rules brought in in Kenya and Singapore, and proposed in the Philippines. In both Singapore and Canada, as well as in Australia, there has also been a readiness to dismiss arguments made by CMOs when not based in fact.

Governments will need to act as strong and independent regulators of CMOs in order to ensure that they fulfil their positive potential and do not end up undermining the public interest side of the copyright equation.


Conclusion: 2020 and Beyond: the examples shared so far all date from pre-COVID-19. Understandably, since the pandemic took hold, the primary area of focus has been on providing healthcare and dealing with immediate human challenges.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic is clearly asking some serious questions of copyright systems. In many cases, rightholders have indeed been willing to find ways to give access when this would otherwise have been impossible when library doors have closed. This is very welcome.

However, arguably, being able to access something that has already been paid for, or to carry out an activity which would be permitted without question in person, should not rely on the goodwill of private actors.

This reliance – and the variety of responses made – has added to the disruption already caused to education, research, and access to culture.

The failure of copyright laws in general to adapt to the digital age, ensuring that libraries and their users do not have to play by different rules when using different formats, has been made very clear.

World Copyright Day 2020, we can hope, will be a wake-up call for law makers.

Libraries, Culture and Heritage in 2020

Culture is the way we express ourselves. It is the celebration of diversity. It is sharing, teaching, learning and connecting.

Cultural heritage are the traditions, spaces, and artifacts that tell the stories of our communities – big and small.

In 2020, let’s embrace the role of libraries as hubs for cultural expression and heritage. Let’s explore how every aspect of the library and information service profession helps preserve culture and make it accessible to all.

Our Goals for 2020 and beyond

  1. Demonstrate how culture and cultural heritage connects the library field and builds connections between people and communities
  2. Inspire libraries to think more strategically on how they can use culture and cultural heritage to provide value for society
  3. Use culture and cultural heritage to help libraries engage more meaningfully on a regional level
  4. Enable libraries and collection holders to build their capacity to carry out digitisation and risk reduction initiatives

Coming Up in 2020

From preserving cultural heritage and intervening with heritage at risk, to increasing opportunities for people to experience and share cultural expression and beyond, here’s an overview of some major projects coming up this year:

Strengthening Cooperation within IFLA

Culture and heritage cover a lot of ground, and many different professionals from across IFLA’s activities are involved in one way or another.  This year is about aligning work across the organisation to allow for better channels of communication, opportunities for collaboration, and a greater overall impact.

The Cultural Heritage Programme (CHP) Advisory Committee has been renewed to include members representing Rare Books and Special Collections, Audio-visual and Multimedia, Indigenous Matters, and Art Libraries, in addition to the Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centres and Preservation and Conservation Section. This advisory body will ensure we have the expert oversight to steer all of IFLA’s cultural heritage programming.

WLIC 2020 will also bring exciting opportunities for collaboration between IFLA’s Sections, both those immediately involved in cultural heritage and those from other areas of the profession. Keep an eye out for Sessions organised by Preservation and Conservation together with the Sections focused on Information Technology, as well as Local History and Genealogy jointly with Indigenous Matters and Rare Books and Special Collections.


Heritage at Risk

Plans are underway to revitalise IFLA’s Register for Documentry Heritage at Risk in 2020. At the heart of this re-launch will be provisions to build more content around the register itself, creating a more comprehensive set of tools. In addition to raising awareness of the register and its function, these tools will add value for collection holders both leading up to and following their collection’s inclusion on the register.

This should prove to be an opportunity to develop our partnership with UNESCO, as we continue to collaborate with the Memory of the World Programme and Culture Sector within the scope of this project.


PAC Centres Growing Regional Connection and Representation

IFLA’s Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centre network is a valuable resource, not only for sharing knowledge, but for building regional understanding, capacity and networks. Over the course of the year, we will work to raise the profile of the PAC Centre Network. This includes evaluating performance and finding ways to increase their impact, both within their regions and across IFLA’s cultural activities.


Libraries in the Climate Heritage Network

Launched in October 2019, the Climate Heritage Network (CHN) is an energetic initiative working to highlight and enhance the role of memory institutions in climate action. IFLA is a proud founding member of the CHN.

We feel libraries a can have a large impact through our work in preservation and access to information and data. This also includes our field’s knowledge about the preservation of and access to digital heritage

Librarian and archivist-led exploration and discovery of information and data can power other advocacy and awareness-raising efforts. This year will bring opportunities for IFLA to contribute to the CHN through communicating the connection between cultural heritage and climate action.   


Typology of libraries in national literacy programmes

Literacy programmes can help drive a lifelong love of reading and learning, as well as providing essential skills for economic and civic participation. This brings with it opportunities to experience diverse cultural expressions and record one’s own. This year, we want to better understand the role libraries currently play in national-level literacy plans around the world.

We are also seeking to strengthen partnerships at the international and regional level, through the UNESCO Education Sector, to advocate for the important role libraries plan in society to increase literacy.


Long-term Preservation and Digitalisation

PERSIST is a project spearheaded by IFLA together with UNESCO and the International Council on Archives. It aims to enhance the sustainability of the information society by establishing continuity of access to information through preservation.

The Content Selection Guidelines were first prepared by the UNESCO PERSIST initiative in 2016. In the light of experience in applying the guidelines, as well as broader technological change over the last four years, we’ve decided that it is time for an update. This year, we are convening a working group to update  the guidance around existing elements, and to include new types of content in these guidelines.


For updates, follow our Cultural Heritage programmes online at ifla.org/cultural-heritage and on the Library Policy and Advocacy blog




What’s Not Preserved is Lost: Why We Should Care about Article 6 of the Copyright Directive

Today, the chapter of the new Communia guide to the Copyright Directive focusing on preservation is launched. We’re happy to have led in preparing this, working with our partners at Communia.

Preservation may not have seemed like the biggest issue in the Copyright Directive, compared to the other subjects under discussion.

The topic itself can seem to be of minority interest. But it’s important to remember that preservation is not just carried out to make sure that future historians have something to read.

Preservation is a vital first step for any future use of a work, either under an exception if it’s in-copyright, or freely once it gets into the public domain.

Digitisation in particular is a key tool for doing this. It is true that this is not necessarily easy or cheap – there needs to be constant attention to ‘bit rot’ – the loss of access to content because of the obsolescence of formats or supports – and to ensuring that servers are kept safe.

But it does massively strengthen our ability to safeguard, and subsequently use, the documents and works that have shaped our past.


A Potential Unrealised?

The work of organisations like Europeana are showing how valuable preserved materials can be for education. The entire digital humanities discipline is based on coming up with new insights on the basis of digitised materials. The potential of historic documents to inform policy and help us understand the progress of climate change is becoming clearer and clearer.

Yet there is unevenness in current preservation rules across Europe. Who can carry out preservation is not the same from one country to the next, nor are the rules about permitted purposes.

A number of countries force libraries to check for commercially available copies before carrying out preservation, and others effectively rule out digitisation by putting limits on the number of copies taken. All but five countries allow contract terms to take away the possibility to take preservation copies.

This all means that currently, the capacity of heritage institutions across Europe to preserve their past is not the same, leaving some countries and cultures at greater risk than others.

Moreover, the inconsistency between countries stands in the way of cooperation across borders, leading to inefficiencies in the use of expensive equipment, and missed opportunities to store documents in distributed networks.

This is what the Article addresses.


The Article and its Implementation

Article 6 is a relatively short article, and – fortunately – was already in a good state in the Commission’s original proposal, thanks to engagement from the heritage community.

As underlined in the Commission’s Impact Assessment, there was a clear public interest objective at play, and the arguments for leaving this to the market were weak at best. The challenges faced by institutions working across borders justified the need for international action.

The Article therefore makes it clear that cultural heritage institutions (broadly defined) can take copies for preservation purposes (also relatively broadly defined) of works in their permanent collections.

Properly implemented, it promises to remove many of the rules that have obliged libraries to spend time looking for commercial copies which are not necessarily easy to find, to make it clear that they don’t need to wait until a work is falling apart to preserve it, and can take copies to help with cataloguing, getting insurance, or other actions related to preservation.

In short, it should remove many of the needless legal barriers to preservation which have meant that some institutions are better empowered to safeguard heritage than others.


Going Further

Nonetheless, there is more to do. The provisions of the Directive needs to be implemented properly for a start, including the broad definition of heritage institutions and preservation purposes, and provisions on contract override and text and data mining.

A key area for attention will be the way in which those works which can be preserved are defined. The Directive talks about works in the permanent collection, yet at a time when so much of the material made accessible by libraries to users is licenced, and lives on third-party servers, it is important to avoid situations where an ever decreasing share of works can be preserved by libraries.

There are more positive possibilities. The Directive could offer a long overdue possibility for libraries to get the legal certainty necessary for web harvesting – i.e. copying freely accessible content from the internet for preservation purposes.

It could also bring about long-overdue consistency in the possibilities libraries themselves have to copy works for internal purposes.



For all that Article 6 should be obvious and uncontroversial, it does mark a useful step. In the light of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018, the exception is of course the least that the EU could have done to support the preservation of the past.

Crucially, it also sets an example for countries elsewhere in the world. While preservation exceptions are relatively common, there are desperately few which allow for digitisation.

This is a crucial point at a time of climate change, when all it may take is one wildfire, flood or storm to wipe out the historical record of a region or country.

We hope to see the model created by the European Union spread throughout the world.

7 out of 10: the ARIPO Model Copyright Law

The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) has released its model copyright law.

ARIPO it aims to support the work of intellectual property (IP) teams across Africa, through both country-specific capacity building, and regional-level reports and guidance.

Its 19 Member States come primarily from English-speaking Africa (with some exceptions), and will now doubtless be encouraged to refer to the Model Law in reflecting on their own reforms.

This means that the document has a potentially powerful impact. As such, it is worth being clear about its strengths, weaknesses, and silences, from a library point of view. Library associations and others advocating for better laws for libraries should be aware of where the Model Law will, or will not help.

This blog therefore explores the positives, the negatives, and the holes in the Model Law. All references to Articles are to the Model Law, unless stated otherwise).


The Good

Fair Dealing: in the first Article of the chapter on exceptions and limitations (Article 18), the Model Law suggests that uses which constitute fair dealing, for the purposes of scientific research, private use, criticism or review, or the reporting of current events should be permissible (Article 18(1)). It then offers a set of criteria for judging the fairness of this dealing – the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the protected work (how original is it?), the amount of the work used, and the effect of the use on the market (Article 18(3)).

This is a positive step, giving valuable flexibility to libraries and other users in making reasonable uses of works. However, it if course remains less open than fair use exceptions, which do not have closed list of accepted purposes. If the list was to be made open (for example by adding a ‘such as’ before the list of purposes), it would offer an even better model.

Inclusion of Unpublished Works: too often, copyright exceptions only apply to works which have been formally published. This can make the work of libraries and archives in dealing with unpublished works more complicated. The Model Law underlines that the fact of being unpublished does not prevent uses under fair dealing (Article 18(4)).

A Digitally-Reading Education Exception: the Model Law makes it clear that it is possible to make uses of copyrighted works for education purposes via electronic networks, and not just in analogue form (Article 21(1)(a) and 21(1)(b)).

Interestingly, the only area where the exception can be cancelled out by a licence is for in-person teaching (Article 21(1)(c)(iii)). This is clearly not ideal, given that the Article is, anyway, covered by the rule that uses under exceptions should not conflict with the normal market exploitation of a work.

A Technologically Neutral Definition of Copying: too often, national laws suggest that copies can only be made through a specific technology, such as photocopying. The Model Law has the merit of underlining that it is possible to make reproductions through any format (Article 2).

Protection of the Public Domain: the Model Law includes standard provisions on facts, data, news and political speeches not being protected by copyright, but is clear that this also applies to laws, court judgements and other administrative texts are also in the public (Article 6). Furthermore, there is an explicit definition of the public domain, which allows the possibility for authors to renounce their rights. This is positive, given the tendency in some countries to create unwaivable rights which undermine initiatives such as Creative Commons (Article 35).

No Term Extension: the Model Law does not take the opportunity too often used elsewhere (and in spite of the evidence) to go beyond protection lasting for the lifetime of the author plus fifty years. This is a useful model to use elsewhere.

Inclusion of Museums: the provisions on library copying also apply to archives and museums. This is a positive, given the challenges identified in WIPO work around museums facing different conditions and rules to other heritage institutions.


The Bad

Overall, the Model Law provides a relatively good example for governments. However, there are some weaknesses which libraries should look to avoid replicating in their own national legislation. The below suggestions are in addition to the encouragement to adopt fair use above.

Vague Provisions on Circumventing Technological Protection Measures: in line with the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the Model Law underlines that ‘effective’ technological protection measures should themselves be protected by law. In other countries, there then follows a guarantee that users should be still be allowed to carry out permitted acts (i.e. under exceptions). However, the ARIPO Model Law only provides that governments may make exceptions. This is far too weak at a time that libraries are acquiring a growing share of collections in digital form (Article 40(4) ad 45(3)).

No Lending Exception: the Model Law includes public lending as one of the uses over which a rightholder should have exclusive rights. This is not something required by the Berne Convention itself (which only covers rental). This risks obliging libraries to make payments or seek authorisation for lending (over and above what they have paid to acquire books in the first place). This risks seriously damaging libraries’ ability to promote literacy and a love of books (Article 7(1)(k).

Restrictions on Preservation Copying: while the Model Law does (commendably) not limit the technology used to make copies, the fact that it only talks about ‘a’ copy poses to digitisation efforts (Article 23(3)). In line with recent EU reforms, it would be better to talk about taking copies in the quantity necessary to achieve the goal.

Furthermore, the Model Law also includes the obligation to see if a commercially available copy is available before taking such a copy. This risks introducing an unhelpful administrative burden, and may not be practicable. Given that it is usually cheaper to buy a copy than digitise and preserve, it would be better to leave the choice between copying and buying to libraries, rather than enforcing it through law (also Article 23(3)).

Imposing Commercial Availability Checks for Marrakesh Copying: The Marrakesh Treaty made an important breakthrough by removing copyright-related barriers to making and sharing accessible format copies of books for people with print disabilities. It did however leave the possibility for Member States to impose restrictions though, in the form of an optional remuneration requirement, or the obligation to check if an accessible format copy is not already available on the market before making or sharing one (Marrakesh Treaty, Articles 4(4) and 4(5)).

Libraries have argued strongly against making use of either of these possibilities, given the financial and administrative cost. However, the Model Law does suggest that there should be a check on commercial availability. Given the lack of information about which books are available where, and in what formats, such a requirement risks only leading to uncertainty.

Lack of Provisions on Collective Management: the Model Law is surprisingly thin on guidance about the regulation of collective management organisations (Article 57), while at the same time including provisions on extended collective licencing (Article 38). While it is clear that well-managed collecting societies can facilitate the work of libraries when carrying out uses that fall outside of exceptions, it is essential that these are run in a transparent and accountable way in order to be legitimate.

The Model Law says very little about the need for CMOs to be independent of government (in order to avoid conflicts of interest in the operation of copyright offices), to publish information about how much they are collecting and paying out, or to be representative of rightholders and rights when offering licences. At a time when multiple governments are needing to act to force better governance in this field, the vagueness of the Model Law is troubling.

Over-Application of the Three-Step Text: The Berne Convention only applies the three-step test (that a use needs to be a certain specific case, not conflict with the normal market exploitation of a work, and not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate rights of rightholders) only to exceptions to the reproduction right (Article 9(2), Berne Convention). However, the Model Law applies this to all exceptions, leading to potentially unhelpful debates about what is and is not possible (Article 18(2))

Attribution Obligations: on various occasions (Articles 18(1), 21(2), 22, 23(2), 24(1), 26(3)), the Model Law suggests that use can only be made under exceptions if there is attribution. However, this may not always be possible. Laws elsewhere recognise this possibility to make uses without attribution when this is not practicable. However, the Model Law does not, creating uncertainty for users who do not know the author of the work they are using.

Licence Override for Document Supply: as mentioned above, the exception allowing for educational uses of works in face-to-face teaching can be disapplied when a licence is available. This also applies to situations when libraries are making copies for the private use of users. Where a collective management organisation argues that it can offer licences, this could do a lot of damage to document supply activities (Article 23(2)(a)(iii).

Block on Parallel Importation: in the context of WIPO, libraries have argued that even when there is a domestic rightholder with the right to distribute a work nationally, it should be possible for libraries to make acquisitions across borders. This can be essential in order to meet requests for specific versions of works, or, for example, when the domestic rightholder is not active. The Model Law gives the rightholder the exclusive right to import works, without exceptions (Article 7(1)(j)).

Limits on Caricature, Pastiche and Parody: the Model Law does include welcome exceptions to economic rights (such as reproduction) for review and critic. However, the exception for caricature, pastiche and parody (Article 30) only applies to moral rights, and not to economic rights. As such, it may make it possible to restrict such activities on other grounds.


The Missing

The Model Law, while comprehensive, does not cover a number of areas which, from a library point of view, would be desirable in any national copyright law.

Orphan and Out-of-Commerce Works: libraries hold many works which are no longer commercially available, but are still in copyright. As such, there are significant restrictions on how far they can give access. This is particularly difficult when a work is orphaned (i.e. it isn’t possible to identify or local rightholders). More and more countries are introducing provisions allowing libraries to permit use of such works, subject to various conditions. The Model Law does not even reference these issues.

Text and Data Mining: legal uncertainty about the possibility for libraries to allow for text and data mining of works in their collections has lead a number of countries to introduce explicit exceptions. There is nothing about this in the ARIPO Model Law, meaning that there is continued uncertainty.

Limited Exceptions for People with Disabilities: while the Model Law does copy provisions from the Marrakesh Treaty for people with print disabilities, it does not take the opportunity (foreseen in the Marrakesh Treaty) to apply similar rules for people with other disabilities (such as sub-titling for people experiencing deafness). Many countries do allow copying without restrictions on the type of disability – it is a shame that this possibility has not been included in the Model Law.

Contract Override: the Model Law is silent on the issue of contract override – i.e. the possibility for exceptions and limitations to be cancelled out by the terms of a licence. In a growing number of countries, there are conscious steps to prevent this from happening, and so defend user rights. National governments should introduce broad provisions ensuring the pre-emption of any contract terms which do undermine exceptions.

Cross-Border: the Model Law only refers to cross-border uses in the case of the provisions on sharing accessible format copies of works for people with print disabilities. There is nothing anywhere else which would allow for the cross-border application of exceptions.

This is perhaps an unfair criticism of course – it is only through international law making that there can be legal certainty for cross-border uses. ARIPO itself could act, but the most effective solution would need to come from WIPO itself. IFLA of course continues to engage to achieve this.



Overall, the ARIPO Model Law does cover a number of key points which help libraries do their job, in particular relatively flexible fair dealing provisions. However, there remain a number of flaws, both specifically (lending rights, limitations on preservation), and cross-cutting ones (contract override).

Governments should therefore not look to adopt the Model Law wholesale, but rather work with their library associations to ensure that they have rules that truly support the public interest missions of libraries. Overall, the Model Laws gets a 7 out of 10.

Sustainability, Authenticity, Awareness, Access: Cultural Heritage and Beyond

The activities surrounding this year’s European Day of Conservation-Restoration seek to highlight key themes in the preservation of cultural heritage: sustainability, authenticity, awareness, and access.

These are not only important in preservation, but also resonate with the core tenets of an informed and participatory society. This blog will touch on how applying these themes through cultural heritage can have a greater reach, building on shared values to create connected and informed communities.



The topic of sustainability is far-reaching, and it must be. As we are well aware through the Sustainable Development Goals, incorporating a sustainable framework within all elements of global development is key to securing a brighter future for humanity.

Conservators in archives, museums, libraries and beyond work to ensure that primary sources of our heritage are sustained for future generations of study.

They make it possible for society at large to experience, value and share these elements of their culture.  As the British Council states in their 2018 report, Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth:

When people engage with, learn from, value and promote their cultural heritage, it can contribute to both social and economic development. An inclusive way of working, that engages individuals and communities in their heritage, and supports institutions and nations to effect positive change for all levels of society, can lead to economic growth and better social welfare. Heritage in this way can be a source of sustainability, a way to embed growth in the fabric of society and to celebrate the past in today’s evolving world.

 Finding methods through which all individuals see themselves reflected in society and invited to take part, through media, accessible spaces and participatory policy, is a contributor to the sustainable development of connected communities



 How valuable is the knowledge that our physical cultural heritage is authentic? The Nara Document on Authenticity states:

In a world that is increasingly subject to the forces of globalization and homogenization, and in a world in which the search for cultural identity is sometimes pursued through aggressive nationalism and the suppression of the cultures of minorities, the essential contribution made by the consideration of authenticity in conservation practice is to clarify and illuminate the collective memory of humanity.

Authenticity is about accurate representation, and determining it requires the skills of careful reading and critical thinking. Identifying authenticity in the information and media we consume is among the defining themes of our times.

Teaching how to value and determine authenticity, within cultural heritage and beyond, trains the skills required to think critically about the information we consume.



Participatory societies are informed societies. Individuals and communities can best engage with, learn from, value and promote their cultural heritage when they are invited to do so.

Days like the European Day of Conservation-Restoration help to raise awareness of the work being done in what might otherwise be considered closed-off spaces. Awareness of one another’s cultural values through heritage helps build mutual respect and understanding.

Advocacy is important! Find ways to share the work you’re doing in a way that resonates with people. Tell stories and invite conversation. Awareness-raising of the value of services and spaces which build connected, informed societies helps ensure that they remain available for generations to come.



Closely tied to raising awareness is ensuring that there are mechanisms in place to connect people with their heritage. Inclusive representation of cultures connects communities to their past and to one another.

In broader terms, access to information is a central tenet of democracy.  Suppressing information, in the same way as suppressing culture, limits the right to think, act and express oneself freely.

Access also means building accessible spaces which invite all individuals to take part in culture, governance and civil society – despite language, ability, identity, age and gender. This reaches far beyond access to cultural heritage.

However, connecting people to their heritage can be part of a broader aim to uphold the freedom of expression and access to information that is at the heart of an informed democratic society.


Cultural heritage can allow for greater engagement with the public sphere. Institutions which conserve heritage, provide opportunities to learn about it, and allow conversations to grow around it can be models of an inclusive approach to engagement on a societal level.

How do you build on these values in your area of the profession?

Fail! How Copyright Risks Creating Market Failures, and How Exceptions Can Correct Them

At the end of a recent WIPO meeting, a suggestion was made that the Marrakesh Treaty – which removes the need to seek permission in order to make or share accessible format copies of books – was a response to a market failure.

Market failures happen when the impacts of a decision (to do something or not) are not fully taken into account by the person making it. These impacts are known as ‘externalities’.

Examples include pollution (which mainly affects people other than the ones responsible), or street lighting (which benefits everyone who passes by, regardless of whether they have paid taxes for it). These are ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ externalities respectively.

When there are externalities, a producer will make more, or less, of something than is optimal for society as a whole.

Talking about the Marrakesh Treaty as a market failure raises some interesting questions about the way copyright works.

All forms of intellectual property are, arguably, a response to another market failure. Traditionally, in the case of copyright, if an author and publisher have invested money in order to produce a book, but then anyone can copy and sell it for less, there is an externality.

The original author is not able to benefit from all of the positives associated with the book, and so may not produce again.

Copyright – under the ‘orthodox’ model of revenue generation that dominates today – helps correct this by giving exclusive rights to the author or their publisher.

However, as in the case of the Marrakesh Treaty, it is clear that the rights given by copyright can create their own problems. In effect, by leaving almost all decisions about who can do what, with what, in the hands of the rightholder, it places them in the same position as the producer mentioned above.

While Marrakesh did deal with a specific population – albeit one numbering into the hundreds of millions around the world – this is not to say that market failures do not exist elsewhere. This blog looks at four areas where they may appear and affect the work of libraries, and underlines how exceptions to copyright can offer a response.


Market Failures Linked to Types of User

This was very much the case with the Marrakesh Treaty, where the limited buying power of people with print disabilities in many parts of the world made them less interesting as a market.

This is not because there was not a value to people with print disabilities from gaining access. Indeed, for them, the possibility to read and enjoy works can lead not only to greater well-being, but also to new opportunities.

The same can be said for children and young families for example. Children can have a huge appetite for books, and most parents are unable to pay for all of the books they will read.

Publishers, however, cannot lower prices for individuals or groups without this threatening their profitability. We risk a situation of many children being left with only limited access to books – including arguably those who need it most.

The possibility to borrow books from the library not only ensures demand is met today, without costing sales, but also helps build the book consumers of the future.


Market Failures Linked to Types of Material

A second failure is linked to types of material. Many of the works held by libraries are ‘orphan’ – i.e. the author is either not known, or not traceable.

This is a common phenomenon, given the very long duration of copyright, as well as the fact that copyright also applies to works which were never made for commercial purposes (and so where fewer records have been kept).

The problem comes from the fact that by default, copyright locks these works away, as the (unknown) author is assumed not to have agreed to their work being used.

The consequence is that this leaves large parts of library collections locked away, despite a low risk of objections to their being shared online (indeed, many people who do come back are happy about it), and lost potential value for researchers and historians.


Market Failures Linked to Type of Use

A third category of market failure is linked to the type of use that is planned. This is an issue because copyright not only governs who can sell books and other works, but also what can be done with them afterwards.

There are arguably certain activities – quotation, basic educational uses, preservation – which are of clear public benefit. However, the last two of these are, by default, also left in the hands of rightholders.

To take the example of preservation, the benefits of this may only be felt in many years to come, or if something deeply uncertain, such as a disaster, strikes.

Yet this is not something that can easily be translated into money, or something that the rightholder taking the decision will necessarily take into account. Indeed, they may logically focus more on the idea of a lost sale (however unlikely this is), or the risk of hacking or loss. Again, by default, preservation is not permitted.

In effect, if the right to preserve works effectively is not covered in law, there is a real risk of books and other works being lost.


Market Failures Linked to Lack of Coordination

The examples of given up to here have been more focused on the decisions taken by rightholders, and represent market failures. But there are also failures associated with policy-making around copyright.

This is because when policies are decided – and in particular, when copyright exceptions are designed – the focus is on domestic interests. There is little if any consideration of how the choices make will affect researchers, teachers and libraries working across borders.

It seems unlikely that anyone would want to prevent libraries from working together across borders in order to carry out preservation, or to share works in a fair and regulated way. These activities are just too easily forgotten.

If these interests were taken into account, there would be a far stronger argument for convergence in copyright exceptions in order to support research, heritage and learning.


As highlighted in the recent WIPO meeting, the Marrakesh Treaty is a response to a market failure – one that ensures that the wider interests of society can be promoted within the context of the copyright system. It is a means of dealing with a problem created by the way copyright works, with exclusive rights by default, and little consideration for cross-border working.

These failures are not the fault of rightholders either, who are acting rationally in the circumstances. They have a duty to maximise revenues in order to support themselves or their authors (and shareholders as appropriate), and are not being deliberately unhelpful.

Such failures can be addressed through exceptions to copyright. It is time to do so, both at the national and global level.