[Openglam_members] Your thoughts needed!

Adam Green adam.green at okfn.org
Fri Oct 4 08:43:20 UTC 2013

Hi all,

I've just done on an interview/survey as part of someone's research thesis
which focuses on the issue of the digitization of public domain works, and
seeks to explore as to where there maybe any economic or non-economic
justification for granting exclusive rights over a digitized version of a
public domain work.

I thought the last section might interest you all - in particular Question
9 (which I have not answered yet). Would be great to get your feedback
before I do!

Here is the relevant section of the survey copy and pasted below (RPM
stands for Rare Public Domain Material):

* *From the research that I have carried out so far these are the *preliminary
conclusions* that I have reached,

a. The *production *of digitized versions of RPM requires investment in the
form of finances, technology and human resources. The costs of digitization
comprise both the fixed costs of production and ongoing costs (ex:
maintaining a platform to make the digitized versions available,development
and inclusion of value added features etc). Private sector (for-profit)
investment tends be a more cost efficient model since most private sector
partners have established infrastructure and value chains. Ongoing costs
can especially prove to be a high burden on public sector institutions who
maybe required to maintain an additional staff for the purpose.

b. Funding that is currently available under non-profit models (ex: public
funding, sponsorships, donations, crowd sourcing and volunteers) does not
have the capacity to support a sustainable digitization process in
Europe.All participants of the survey carried out so far agree that the
digitization of RPM in their collection is best carried out through the
utilization of a combination of for-profit and non-profit funding models.
Thus private sector (for-profit) funding is necessary for the digitization
process either under PPP's or licensing schemes. Without such private
sector involvement there could be a quantitative (and perhaps qualitative)
decrease in the the digitized products available to the public.* (As an
example the National Library of France estimates that the digitization of
its collection of early books and sound recordings without private sector
involvement would take 50 years as opposed to the 5.5 years WITH private
sector involvement)*

c. In order to encourage private-sector (for-profit) funding in the
digitization process it is necessary to guarantee to the private sector
investor a return on his investment.

d. The nature of digital products and the high risk of piracy that is
involved means that in order to obtain a return on investment it is
necessary that the producer or an authorized partner retains control over
the use and access of the digitized product.

e. A lack of institutional regulation has resulted in the proliferation of
a variety of ad hoc mechanisms (ex: Copyright statements, contractual
provisions and technological protection measures) maintenance of control
and exclusivity of digitized products, some of which are of questionable
legal validity and weighted in favor of producer interests. Thus the EU
could profit from the introduction of a system of institutional regulation
which regulates the way in which use and access of digitized versions of
RPM could be restricted, balances producer and user interests and seeks to
optimize consumer and producer welfare within a sustainable digitization

In line with these conclusions I hope to propose the introduction of
the* following
regulatory model* in the EU,

i. The granting of exclusive rights over digitized versions of RPM to
"producers" of digitized products for a limited duration based on the
neighboring rights framework in Europe. *(The exact duration and scope of
the rights is yet to be decided. The duration would possibly be not more
than 7 years).*

ii. The memory institution or individual who has custody of the original or
underlying work to be considered the 'producer' of the digitized
product. *(This
would allow the right to be vested largely with public sector institutions
who have custody over the greater amount of RPM in Europe and also avoid
fragmentation of rights)

iii. The claiming of exclusive rights to be conditional upon the digitized
product being vested with an independent centrally administered database
prior to its being made available to the public. The database to not
disclose the product to any person during the duration of the exclusive
right but be able to make the product available free of any restriction
once the duration of protection has lapsed.
(*I assume that the current Europeana platform could be modified for this

iv. A set of guidelines to be issued to public sector institutions that
promotes transparency in the formation of PPP's and requires that, where
digitization has been carried out under a non-profit funding model, at
least one copy of this product should be made available to the public free
of restriction. (*If they prefer they can opt to make available a low
resolution copy free of restrictions and retain a high resolution copy for
commercial exploitation).*

I feel that such a model would,

- lead to a quantitative (and possibly qualitative) increase in the
digitized versions of RPM available to the public.
- balance producer and user interests
- although in the short term it may lead to an infringement of civil
liberties (such as the freedom of expression right to information etc.) in
the long-term it would optimize both producer and consumer welfare and
ensure the sustainability of the digitization process in Europe.

I of course agree that Europe should not cease to strive towards the
achievement of a system within which digitized versions of RPM are
available to the public without restriction from the inception, but I feel
that the reality of  current institutional and economic limitations in
Europe mean that for the present at least it is necessary to strike a

I would like to know,

*8. How you would react to the introduction of such a model in Europe?

*9. As an organization that is committed to the Open Access Policy could
you suggest any alternative means of ensuring sustainability of the
digitization of RPM in Europe?*


Adam Green

Editor, The Public Domain Review <http://publicdomainreview.org/> |
@PublicDomainRev <https://twitter.com/PublicDomainRev>

The Open Knowledge Foundation <http://okfn.org/>

Empowering through Open Knowledge

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