Informal Audiovisual and Culture Council
PPPs to finance digitisation of works
By Jakub Iwaniuk in Wroclaw | Thursday 15 September 2011
The digitisation of audiovisual works was at the heart of debates at the informal meeting of the Union’s culture and audiovisual ministers, on 9 September in Wroclaw, Poland, held in the wings of the European Culture Congress organised by the Polish EU Presidency. The 27 ministers debated for the first time a report on bringing Europe’s cultural heritage online, made public last January by a committee of experts set up by the European Commission to advise it on how best to meet challenges in this area
The ministers discussed at length the question of financing costly digitisation projects. A ministerial source revealed that “the member states agreed that public-private partnerships (PPPs) should play an important role in this process during these times of budget restrictions”. Culture Commissioner Androula Vassiliou made a point of noting at the end of the meeting that even though states are responsible for digitising the cultural heritage, complementarity with EU funds is possible. “Many member states do not realise that they can use Structural Funds for cultural purposes,” she told the press. “To do so, however, a government must agree to make it one of its priorities, which is not necessarily easy.”
A ministerial source reported that the tone of the debates was very positive. “There was a real will to advance and to work on the legislative mechanisms that will help increase digitisation and access to works. All the states gave their views and the approach is proactive. However, while there is agreement on the overall objective, the details of such future legislation are still controversial.”
Among the touchy subjects are the questions of copyright and the status of orphan works (see box). On the latter point, the ministers debated the draft directive presented by the European Commission in May. “This directive still needs a lot of work”, explained the source. “The questions being debated at present are the types of works that would be covered, the type of use possible and whether the private sector could be a beneficiary of their use.” The stakes are high. According to the Polish minister, there are currently 129,000 films and three million books identified as orphan works.
Poland’s Culture Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski welcomed the presence of Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier, who was able to join the culture ministers for the first time. “The debate on digitisation is all the more complex because it comes within the remit of three commissioners: culture, internal market and Digital Agenda,” concluded Zdrojewski.
Orphan works are books, newspapers, films, etc that are covered by copyright but whose rights holders cannot be identified or located. The objective of the proposal for a directive on certain authorised uses of orphan works - COM(2011)289, presented on 24 May 2011 by the European Commission - is to set up a legal framework that guarantees lawful cross-border online access to orphan works contained in the collections of online digital libraries or archives operated by a variety of institutions targeted by the proposal, provided these works are used to exercise the public-interest missions of such institutions. The proposal introduces the principle of mutual recognition of orphan work status (if a work is recognised as such in one member state, this status must be recognised by all the member states).(1)