Case Study
Collections Trust

Sectors: Museums, Libraries and Archives
Culture and Heritage
Museums, Libraries and Archives
Service(s): Data Processing and Analysis, Online, Quantitative
Approach(es): Business to Business

The Challenge

In order to determine the current state of Orphan Works across the cultural, heritage, education, health and other public service sectors, the research methodology has comprised three distinct elements. This provided the scope as well as the depth and granularity of information needed to measure the impact of this phenomenon:

DJS Research and Collections Trust worked closely to develop a process to provide a statistically robust measure of the problem and views.

The Approach

This comprised an online survey of predominantly closed questions, where respondents were also given the opportunity to type in any relevant comments or anecdotes.

The approach taken included the following:

  • Distribution of the survey via email to various e-mailing lists held by the Collections Trust and partners in the SCA
  • Incentive of entry to a £100 prize draw, and a synopsis of the results (interestingly, more respondents requested a synopsis of results than asked to take part in the prize draw)
  • Reminders and updated press releases during the course of the survey

The Results

The scale and impact of Orphan Works across the public sector confirms that the presence of Orphan Works is in essence locking up culture and other public sector content and preventing organisations from serving the public interest..

The quantity of Orphan Works and their impact is only accelerating as content is being created and digitised without adherence to any single internationally recognised standard for capturing provenance information. The research suggested that many public sector organisations are themselves unsure as to the extent of the problem, and that staff awareness and understanding are often limited.

There are also suggestions that often works are selected for digitisation based on the fact that they do not pose any copyright issues, thus creating a black hole of 20th century content.

It is crucial that policy makers recognise the problems that public sector bodies face in managing and providing public access online to a vast range of works in copyright (including Orphan Works), and create a suite of appropriate legislatively based solutions as a matter of urgency. Without these legal safeguards, the contribution of public sector content to a global digital landscape will continue to be severely curtailed and the levels of public resources to manage copyright will be unacceptable.

Further information about the research can be found here: Research FindingsJISC_Report.jpg

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