University of Essex Academics Respond to the European Commission Consultation on Digital Cultural Heritage

Photo by Roman Kraft

Professor Stavroula Karapapa, University of Essex, School of Law

Digitisation has enabled access to and availability of cultural heritage to an extent previously unknown and, in addition, it has enhanced preservation and modern research opportunities, e.g. through text mining and data analytics. The availability of and access to cultural materials in digital form can provide significant support to conservation, renovation, research, study and promotion of cultural assets and, in this regard, digital cultural heritage can serve as a resource for education, enjoyment or re-use, including use towards the development of new knowledge. The need for digital transformation has been revealed and become as relevant as ever as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite its benefits, the digitisation of cultural heritage challenges traditional legal norms, such as copyright law.

Colleagues from the School of Law, in collaboration with staff from the University’s Library Services and University Archives, have contributed to a consultation of the European Commission on Digital Cultural Heritage.

In their position paper, they recommend that digitisation should enable preservation of cultural artefacts, including world heritage properties, access to the public, and accessibility by people with special needs and educational institutions.

They also recommend that law and policy should offer further support to cultural institutions towards developing digitisation initiatives (e.g. the legislative framework on orphan works should be revisited in terms of its breadth and parameters of application).

They warn against the creation of digital monopolies (e.g. public domain material should remain in the public domain after digitisation) and urge for the development of legal provisions ensuring the security of computer infrastructure both to safeguard digital culture and avoid the spread of misinformation.

Click below to download a copy of the position paper:

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