Intellectual property is an important issue for members because they are unlikely to own all rights to substantial numbers of works in their collections. For museums to be able to research, digitise and display works in their collections which are still in copyright, they have to seek permission from the rights’ owner. If these owners cannot be found, works often cannot be used. Museums are also rights owners themselves, and license the use of images of works in their collections.
The Orphan Works Solution and Voluntary Extended Collective Licensing
In July 2012, the Government published proposals for an orphan works solution and a voluntary extended collective licensing scheme. These proposals were welcomed by NMDC members. They require legislation and this is proposed in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. NMDC has produced a briefing outlining why there is the need for these proposals and the impact they could have.
NMDC submitted a detailed response to the Intellectual Property Office’s consultation on copyright in March 2012. The submission outlines some of the challenges facing museums, libraries and archives in relation to copyright and welcomes proposals to enable museums and galleries to more easily use orphan works - items with unknown copyright owners - and permit copying for preservation purposes.
NMDC is also keen to see the educational exception extended to public museums and galleries, and for the copyright exemption for research and private study to include sound recordings, film and broadcast material. NMDC also welcomes the proposals to ensure parity between copyright and contract law. NMDC's response was developed with the Museums IP Network and is counter-signed by the Museums Association, the University Museums Group and the Association of Independent Museums.
Most publicly-funded museums, galleries, libraries and archives will have objects in their collections which are orphan works. These are works for which the rights owners are unknown or cannot be traced. The 2009 Collections Trust/JISC report In from the Cold estimated that there are approximately 50 million orphan works in public collections. Although the institutions are not able to reproduce the works for cultural, academic or commercial use, they nevertheless have a duty of care and preservation of these collections. Only a tiny fraction of orphan works are ever used because of the time taken to complete the diligent search required to establish that the rights’ owners are unknown. This is costly and means cultural institutions are unable to realise the full potential of objects in their care. Those institutions with collections of personal archives, social history, photographs taken by private (rather than commercial) photographers, unpublished works, books and pamphlets have entire collections which they are unable to use (this includes placing these objects on display).
Museums IP Network
NMDC’s work on Intellectual Property is guided by the Museums IP Network. The Network is made up of copyright and legal specialists based within the UK’s major museums (as well as the British Library and The National Archives).
Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth
NMDC welcomed the publication of the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth in July 2011.