Preservation in archives and libraries: Better dead than read?



Is our cultural and historical heritage better dead that read? Or is the preservation of our common past a public good that is much better read than dead? If we do not take urgent action much of that legacy will be either lost forever or will remain effectively dead because it will not be accessible to most of the people to enjoy, study or research. Despite living in a digital age some in this room are still defending an information and innovation strategy of scarcity in stark contrast to building socially useful online abundance.

The vast majority of representatives in this room consider preservation a moral and public service responsibility to take international legal measures to preserve our cultural and scientific heritage in the digital environment.

Nevertheless, the complex and incomprehensible jungle of often irrational current copyright laws makes it almost impossible for librarians and archivists, most of whom are not IPR lawyers, to fulfill this responsibility internationally, in cross-border operations with any degree of legal certainty. Should they take the risk of being sued? Here common-sensical social practice conflicts with archaic, chaotic copyright laws that is causing cultural “preservation chill”.

Is it logical or acceptable not to allow legal cross-border shipment archived works? Why is an international solution needed to solve the problem?

An international exception to copyright is needed to permit the supply by one library or archive of a copy of a work to replace a copy of that work that had been preserved in the receiving library or archive but that has now been lost, detiorated or destroyed. An international copyright flexibility is also needed for academic and journalistic researchers to easily access archives and libraries around the world for the common good of advancing science, strengthening freedom of information and restoring cultural equity between countries of the North and the South.

Consumers are overwhelmingly in favour of international cooperation in cultural preservation and sharing of that knowledge.