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Posted on Monday October 26, 2015

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

Open letter on copyright reform

Europe’s public cultural heritage institutions are key to influencing and shaping our lives with unrivalled access to information, culture and our shared history.

Dear Commissioner Oettinger,
cc: Vice President Ansip, Commissioner Navracsics,

Europe’s public cultural heritage institutions are key to influencing and shaping our lives with unrivalled access to information, culture and our shared history. They promote knowledge, education, research and encourage the creation of new culture.

Ways to share and engage with cultural content have been transformed in a digital age, but limitations in current European copyright rules restrict that full potential. As a result, our institutions contain large collections established and cared for using public funds but they cannot be made easily available to the public online.

Later this year the European Commission is proposing new European copyright rules as part of its strategy to create a single European digital market. We the undersigned directors of Europe’s (leading) museums, libraries and archives therefore want to reinforce the importance of creating improved copyright rules which enable easier online access to more of Europe’s rich cultural heritage. The success of a single European digital market hinges on such key areas being adapted.

In its evaluation report of the existing copyright rules, adopted before the summer, the European Parliament has clearly recognised this issue, directly influenced by the case for change that Europeana made on behalf of the cultural heritage institutions it represents. The European Parliament has demanded that the upcoming Commission proposal on new copyright rules includes updated rules for libraries, archives and museums that allow us to fully engage with people online. As Europeana exists to provide a space to collaborate and share cultural heritage, we would like to reinforce the report’s messages.

Let us be clear, when we ask for copyright rules that allow us to fully represent our collections online, we are not asking for rules that undermine the ability of creators, publishers or other intermediaries to earn a living from their creativity. We want the ability to provide online access to those works in our collections that are not actively exploited by their creators or subsequent rights holders. Improving online access to works that are not available via other channels helps promote creators whilst encouraging new creative activity.

Our institutions are in a challenging position operating as custodians of in-copyright works, where obtaining copyright permission is time consuming and is often impossible to secure, whilst also managing the public’s expectations in providing online access.

A copyright system that locks away large parts of our collections in museums or confines them to physical archives and libraries, that are not always easy to reach, benefits no one. Ultimately, such a system does not reflect the legitimate expectations of Europe and is contrary to the policy objectives of the EU and its member states in the fields of culture and education.

Europe will become much stronger if we can represent traditionally publicly funded access to physical cultural heritage in a vibrant digital space.

We call on the European Commission to address these concerns in the upcoming legislative proposal on copyright. As recommended by the European Parliament in July, the proposal needs to include updates to the existing exceptions benefitting libraries, archives and museums. Those updates should allow our institutions to provide online access to our collections that are not actively managed or available via commercial channels, without having to obtain permission from the rights holders.

We look forward to working with the Commission and all other stakeholders to create a copyright policy framework that ensures cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed by all; supporting both the role of institutions to share and provide access to other people’s works whilst also safeguarding the legitimate interests of creators and publishers who are key to encouraging and inspiring ongoing cultural exchange.

Jill Cousins, Executive Director, Europeana Foundation

Mikkel Bogh, Director, National Gallery of Denmark

Dr. Maria Inês Cordeiro, Director-General, National Library of Portugal, Portugal

Kaat Debo, Director, MoMu, Belgium

Marens Engelhard - General Director, National Archief, The Netherlands

Miguel González Suela, Subdirector General de Museos Estatales, Dirección General de Bellas Artes y Bienes Culturales y de Archivos y Bibliotecas. Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte. España.

Severiano Hernández Martínez, Subdirector General de Archivos Estatales, Dirección General de Bellas Artes y Bienes Culturales y de Archivos y Bibliotecas. Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte. España.

Edwin van Huis, ‎General, Director Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, The Netherlands

Björn Jordells,Director General, Swedish National Archives, Chair of Digisam, Swedish National coordination of digitisation, digital preservation and digital access to cultural heritage

Monique Kieffer, General Director, National Library of Luxembourg

Dr Lily Knibbeler, Director-General of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Netherlands

Erland Kolding Nielsen, Director General, The Royal Library, Copenhagen University, Denmark

Juhani Kostet, General Director, National Board of Antiquities, Finland

Svend Larsen, Chief Executive,The State and University Library Denmark, Denmark

Diane Lees CBE, Director-General, Imperial War Museum/Chair of the National Museum Directors' Council, UK

Prof. Dr Patrick Lefèvre, Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, Belgium

Jan Müller, CEO Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Netherlands

Dragoş Neagu, President, National Association of Public Libraries and
Librarians in Romania (ANBPR)

Massimo Negri, Director ,EMA - European Museum Academy, The Hague,The Netherlands),

Elisabeth Niggemann, Director-General, Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Germany

Prof.Dr.Dr.h.c.mult. Hermann Parzinger President, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation

Concha Vilariño Periáñez, Subdirector General de Coordinación Bibliotecaria, Dirección General de Bellas Artes y Bienes Culturales y de Archivos y Bibliotecas. Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte. España.

Wim Pijbes, General Director, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Pier Paolo Poggio, Scientific Director,Fondazione Luigi Micheletti, Brescia, Italy

Claudia Şerbănuţă, General Director, Romanian National Library

Sorina Stanca, Director, Cluj County Library, Romania

Adriana Szekely, President, Romanian Librarians Association (ABR)

Karel Velle, General Director, National Archives, Belgium

Andris Vilks, Director, National Library of Latvia

Claudia Dillmann, Director, Deutsches Filminstitut - DIF, Frankfurt

Dr.jur. Ellen Euler, LL.M., Deputy General Manager, German Digital Library

Frauke Rehder, Manager, digiCULT-verbund eG

Lars Kærulf Møller, Director, Bornholms Kunstmuseum

Jantje Steenhuis, Director, Stadsarchief Rotterdam

Ariela Netiv, Director, Heritage Leiden

Sandra den Hamer, Director, EYE Filmmuseum Amsterdam

Prof. Dr. Sabine Schulze, Director, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Prof.Dr. Rainer Kuhlen, Director, ENCES e.V. (European Network for Copyright in Support of Education and Science)

Hannes Obermair, Director, Civic Archives of Bozen-Bolzano

Xavier Agenjo, Fundación Ignacio Larramendi

Dr Sandra Collins, Director, National Library of Ireland

Marian Koren, Director, FOBID Netehrlands Library Forum

Siebe Weide, Director Museumvereniging

Fionnuala Croke, Director, Chester Beatty Library

John McDonough, Director, National Archives of Ireland

Chantal Keijsper, Director, Branch Organization Archival Institutions in The Netherlands (BRAIN)

Adelaida Ferrer Torrens, Manager, Centre de Recursos per a l'Aprenentatge i la Investigació de la Universitat de Barcelona

G.A. Koese, Archivist, Hoogheemraadschap van Rijnland

Raghnall Ó Floinn, Director, National Museum of Ireland

Martina Rozman Salobir, Director, National and University Library Slovenia

Huib Uil, Gemeentearchivaris, Gemeentearchief Schouwen-Duiveland, Zierikzee, Netherlands

Robert Olsson, Director, Länsmuseet Västernorrland

Ioanna Papantoniou, President, Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation

Marianne Saabye, Director, The Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen

Karen Grøn, Director, Trapholt - Museum for Modern Art, Applied Art and Design

Lisette Vind Ebbesen, Director, Skagens Museum

Stig Miss, Director, Thorvaldsens Museum

Mads Damsbo, Director, Brandts - Museum of Art & Visual Culture

Antia Wiersma, Manager, Atria, Tnstitute on gender equality and women's history

Elisabeth Bloch, City Archivist, Copenhagen City Archives

Cezar Popescu, Director, Asociația Culturală Atelierele Albe

Alexandros Charkiolakis, Head of the Erol Ucer Music Library, MIAM - Istanbul Technical University

Ioana Movila, National Institute of Heritage

Dagmar Warming, Director, Ribe Kunstmuseum

Eskil Vagn Olsen, Director, Museum Vestsjaelland

Michael Ax, Director, Nordjyllands Kystmuseum

Jacob Wang, Director, National Museum of Denmark

Please find attached the Commission's response to the Open Letter signed by Directors from Cultural Heritage Institutions.