The Netherlands: pioneer in digital preservation cultural heritage
The Library of Congress has recently issued a joint report on digital preservation and copyright. This authoritative report was compiled by the National Digital Information and Infrastructure Preservation Program, and in cooperation with partners in Australia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. SURFfoundation is responsible for the Dutch contribution.
The report, International Study on the Impact of Copyright Law on Digital Preservation, notes that digital works are ephemeral, and unless preservation efforts are begun soon after they are created, they will be lost to future generations. The report found that although copyright and related laws are not the only obstacle to digital preservation, there is no question that those laws present significant challenges.
Recommendations are provided for legislative reform and other solutions to ensure that libraries, archives and other preservation institutions can manage copyrighted digital information in a manner consistent with national and international laws.Â Specific recommendations include structuring national copyright laws to provide exceptions for preservation institutions to proactively preserve at risk copyrighted material in digital form, subject to measures appropriate to protect the legitimate interests of right holders.
The Dutch contribution to the report takes inventory of current digital preservation efforts in the Netherlands. It also looks at the way in which the Netherlands regulates the preservation of and access to digital materials: through agreements between cultural institutions and entitled parties, which ensure that 20th-century works will remain publicly available. Higher education institutions in the Netherlands, collaborating within SURF, have indicated that they want clarity about preserving and providing access to cultural resources.
The recommendations for reforming Dutch legislation also focus on works from collections in museums, archives and libraries. These works need to be digitized for preservation. A secure network would have to ensure access to these digitized works.
For the Netherlands, the report is particularly important in view of the leading international position which the National Library of the Netherlands has achieved with its e-depository. The Library is often quoted as â€˜an example of good practiceâ€™.
The importance of the report is underlined by Dr. Wim van Drimmelen, Director of the National Library. In an article in the Dutch newspaper â€˜NRC Handelsbladâ€™ of 17 April 2008, the National Library argued for removing the legal obstacles to digitizing 20th-century library collections. In addition, Van Drimmelen argues that clear regulation and legislation in this area is also of paramount importance for new, digitally born documents since their accessibility is under greater threat than that of traditional information carriers.
According to the report, copyright laws should permit preservation institutions to preserve copyrighted works in accordance with international best practices for digital preservation, including making copies for administrative and technical purposes; migrating works into different formats in response to technological developments and changing standards; and maintaining redundant copies among preservation institutions and legally authorized third party preservation repositories to protect against catastrophic loss.
The report further recommends that copyright exceptions for digital preservation should not be conditioned on the category (such as literature or music) or format (such as compact disc or website) of the work.
The Images for the Future project is mentioned at page 48.
As part of Images for the Future the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and Knowledgeland are developing Open Images. The aim of this project is to offer online access to a selection of archive material for creative reuse. Reuse includes remixing of archive footage in new videos. Open Images also supports interlinking with other data sources (like Wikipedia), allowing the easy creation of mashups. Access to the content will be based on the Creative Commons model which proposes a middle way to rights management, rather than the extremes of the pure public domain or the reservation of all rights. The ‘open’ nature of the project is underscored by adapting open formats and using open source software. Software resulting from Open Images will also be released under a open source license.
The development of the project started with a kick-off meeting at Knowledgeland in Amsterdam, earlier this month. The aim-of-the-day was to map the (open source) digital video solutions that are available today and to get feedback. Eight experts in the digital video field where invited to this informal brainstorm session. After an introduction of Images for the Future and the Open Images project plan, the invited experts gave inspiring presentations of their current work. At the end of the day there was a general discussion about the project plan and the first steps that ought to be taken.
Please find a report of this day below. Open Images aims to launch a Beta release by the end of the year.
For the last 4 months we have been busy working with Dutch secondary schools in a pilot which experiments with giving online access to audiovisual heritage. Recently we were welcomed at the DIVERSE 2008 conference to present some preliminary results, see also our short paper. DIVERSE is a community which shares experience about developing interactive visual educational resources for students all over the world.
One of the points which we stressed was that we found that although teachers and students liked the idea of working with audiovisual heritage, to use and reuse it into presentations and learning objects, it was hard for them to put this into actual practice.
In our discussion on the reasons why this is so hard, we found out that there are some commonalities with other projects and countries. This was also mentioned by someone as a “changing teaching paradigm”. We experienced that there’s not only lack of facilities and technical difficulties which made it hard for secondary schools to integrate our pilot in their curriculum. We also found a lack of ICT skills and imagination with teachers trying to take it into practice. Students weren’t much motivated because there was no full support from their teachers.
On behalf of the National Archives of the UK, Andrew Payne presented a similar project Focus on Film in wich students and teachers are able to use films from the archive. They can edit, show it to others and even download the original video. A lot of work was done on putting all material in an apprehensive context. Although he impressed us with the fact that in 1 year the project is running, 1000 people have already registred and there were 2,5 million visitors in one year, he agreed on the same difficulties.
How can we overcome this challenge? Today I attended a meeting at the Stranger festival where UK based think tank Demos spoke about their research on how youngh people are changing Europe. Celia and Tommy stressed that the ability to put information into representations (video etc.) is a skill like reading and writing which is likely to becoming more and more important to participate in civil society. This makes you think about whose responsibiliy it is to foster this. Will our educational system be able to take this responsibility? What is needed?
Nikki Timmermans | Knowledgeland