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2 minutes to read Posted on Tuesday June 20, 2017

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

The British Library hosts launch of The Copyright Cortex

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By Ronan Deazley, the British Library.

Today, the British Library hosts the launch of The Copyright Cortex, a new online, open access, resource dedicated to copyright and digital cultural heritage. The Copyright Cortex has been developed to provide libraries, archives, museums and other memory institutions with information and expert commentary on how copyright law affects the creation, management and use of digital cultural heritage.

Welcome to the Copyright Cortex

Developed by Ronan Deazley, Claudy Op den Kamp, Victoria Stobo and Andrea Wallace, The Copyright Cortex has two main features.

First and foremost, the Cortex is a catalogue. It brings together a wide range of material relating to copyright and digital cultural heritage: scholarly publications, practical guidance, policy documentation, and real-world case studies. The Cortex brings this material into one digital space, organized under three broadly defined headings: Research, Tools & Resources, and Policy & Evidence. At present, open content is prioritized, including only catalogue material that is publicly accessible online.

The Copyright Cortex screenshot

Content is made available primarily through links to the original material. The Cortex does not host third-party content, apart from some national and European policy consultations for which we have gathered together material in the public interest. Whenever evidence submitted to these consultations is made available online, it is generally only available for a short period of time. We want to ensure these materials remain publicly available in the longer term.

Second, accompanying the catalogue is an open access text for cultural heritage practitioners: Copyright and Digital Cultural Heritage. This resource is free to read online, and free to download. When complete (10 of 15 planned chapters are currently available), it will provide a comprehensive introduction to copyright law for UK-based memory institutions, focussing specifically on how copyright impacts access to and use of digital cultural heritage materials within and across national borders.

But, The Copyright Cortex does more than comment on and collate information about copyright and digital cultural heritage. It also celebrates and promotes the use of open content and collections. Catalogue entries are illustrated with images from collections that have been made openly available by cultural heritage institutions around the world. Images are randomly allocated to catalogue cards, so every time you visit your experience will be different. And, like the use of images, the choice of typeface celebrates open content. The principal typeface used for Cortex content is Cooper Hewitt, an open source typeface designed by Chester Jenkins and commissioned by the Cooper Hewitt museum.

Today’s launch marks the start of a process, not an endpoint. We will continue to develop and enhance the content and functionality of the Copyright Cortex over many years to come. If you have ideas or suggestions for material that should feature in the Cortex, we would love to hear from you. You can contact us at