Monthly Archives: November 2011

IPR and Digital Preservation, Bristol 21 November 2011

The ins and outs of intellectual property rights and related law are not something I’m familiar with, so I had quite a learning curve at this day event, organised by the Digital Preservation Coalition and JISC Digital Media at Bristol University’s Wills Hall.

I was pleased to see Andrew Charlesworth down to speak, as he has the ability to make even dry subjects entertaining. He divided the problems we face into three types. The first was a recurring theme of the day: FUD=fear, uncertainty and doubt, which make people uncertain about what is and isn’t permitted, and unwilling to take risks.  Secondly, as a lawyer he was unhappy with current legislation which (for example) defines ‘public records’ differently in Scotland, and is unclear about technical protection measures (another recurring theme) and IPR as it applies to software. The third area concerned administration: who has what responsibility, how can metadata be made to ‘stick’ and what are the implications of (for example) migrating data to new formats?

Next, Chris Hilton of the Wellcome Library, on day release from jury service, gave a case study of depositing and licensing.  As the Library cannot compel people to donate to it, it must retain the confidence of depositors: ‘Trust is our brand’. He raised some issues with the depositing of items, in particular that of proliferating copies and what exactly does the Library own?  (His view is that it is a ‘Platonic Form’ of the item deposited, rather than any particular instance of it).  He felt the Library was moving towards a purchase model, and raised the issue of ’emotional ownership’, where someone other than the owner has a close interest in an object (the example given being notes taken by Churchill’s doctor – rather apt since Churchill opened the Wills Hall).

The second case study was given by David Anderson from Portsmouth University, about their KEEP project. He pointed out the impracticalities if EU directives are kept to the letter, and the implications of various specific exceptions which are allowed to them.  Technical protection measures were mentioned again, this time as something worth preserving in their own right, but also because the law relating to their circumvention differs in different places.  He raised several problem cases for IPR, such as a computer game produced for the 2012 Olympics which contains corporate logos.

Finally before lunch we were divided into groups and asked to discuss problems of copyright infringement as applied to a hypothetical project ‘Integrated Image Collections’; it was generally agreed that this project would be a minefield of them!

After lunch Barbara Kolany of Münster University talked about escrow agreements relating to digital materials and software, and in particular the issue of what happens if the licensor becomes insolvent.  In Austria and Germany this may mean that the licensee can lose their rights.  This led to a general discussion about escrow and how it works or could work in practice as a model for licensing digital objects or software.

Jason Miles Campbell of JISC Legal talked briskly about some other emerging trends.  He identified two areas where action was clearly needed: a policy on the ever-increasing number of orphan works, and a distinction between preservation and re-use.

Finally, there was a panel session and open discussion.  Themes which had recurred during the day such as FUD (and attendant risk aversion), obtaining the trust of depositors, technical protection measures, sticky metadata and the emotional ownership of an object were reprised.

The talks at this event were all thought-provoking and informative, so it was a day well spent.