n Innovation : journal of appropriate librarianship and information work in Southern Africa - Legal impediments to cultural preservation : copyright, contract and global information policy

Volume 2016 Number 53
  • ISSN : 1025-8892



The copyright exceptions for libraries and archives relating to the digital preservation of cultural heritage are inadequate in the laws of many countries. This is exacerbated by the problem of orphan works. Further impediments are posed by the use of technological protection measures to restrict access to content, including works consisting of a mixture of protected and unprotected (i.e., public domain) content. Previous studies also demonstrate that preservation of, and access to, digital community heritage through commercial mechanisms are often inadequate and are bounded by the contractual restrictions contained in end-user license agreements. This article discusses the ethical implications of the copyright vs. contract paradigm using a Rawlsian analysis of information equity. A final section recounts a recent preservation case study involving the digital collections of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries and demonstrates that, in particular circumstances, such digitisation efforts can be successful. While digitising allows documentation and preservation of the history and culture of ethnic groups and nationalities, it also presents challenges in determining ownership and proper description. These issues are highlighted from a practical standpoint, outlining how best practices are developed and how a risk analysis is necessary in determining unclear ownership. The article concludes with a list of recommendations based on both legal and ethical considerations that any revision to copyright law should consider.

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