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Our response to the EC consultations on digital technologies and the cultural heritage sector

This week, we have submitted our response to the European Commission’s consultation on the opportunities offered by digital technologies for the cultural heritage sector​. We agree, it is high time to revisit the approach defined by the Recommendation on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation from 2011. Ten years is a lot of time and a new approach is needed due to three factors: advances in digitisation of heritage, legal reforms that took place in the meantime – especially the new Copyright Directive, and the rapidly changing digital environment.

We believe that cultural policies, to be fit for their purpose both today and in the years ahead, need to be based on an updated vision of the role of digital heritage for Europe’s societies. We need strategies that support the creation of social, cultural, and economic value based on Europe’s heritage. This is especially true in 2020, when during the Covid-19 pandemic the value of digitised cultural heritage for our societies became clearly visible. Yet it was also a time when many of the cultural heritage institutions faced a crisis.

We need an approach to cultural heritage that recognizes its value to the society and ensures the resilience of cultural heritage institutions and the cultural sector.

Below you will find highlights of the issues that we raise in our response. You can also download the full response as a PDF file.

From the Digital Single Market to Shared Digital Europe. We need a policy framework, which acknowledges that digital and cultural policies should achieve more than just economic outcomes.

A broad definition of cultural heritage. European cultural policy needs to adopt a broad view so that it covers born-digital content, user-generated heritage or contemporary content stored in archives of public broadcasters.

Europe needs public, cultural infrastructure. Building on the success of Europeana, Europe should explore how to further develop public infrastructure that ensures availability, access to, and the possibility of reuse of cultural heritage.

From preservation and access to digital transformation. Policy goals cannot be limited to just preservation and providing access. Success will be achieved only if heritage is accessed and used.

Implementation of the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive and the need for more harmonisation of European copyright law. The provisions of the DSM Directive come in response to more than a decade of calls from Europe’s cultural heritage sector to adapt the EU copyright rules to the realities of the digital environment. It will now be key to ensure that these provisions will be properly implemented.

Improving rights information infrastructure. Much of the copyright issues faced by cultural heritage institutions are rooted in a lack of easily available and reliable rights information. The European Union should invest in the creation of trusted repositories. EUIPO could possibly maintain a  comprehensive repository for rights information.

Retract the Orphan Works Directive. More than 5 years after its entry into force it is abundantly clear that the 2014 Orphan works Directive is a failure that did not have any meaningful impact on the digitization of cultural heritage in the EU.

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