Statement on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill

The House of Commons is today considering the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. The Bill contains important provisions that will enable the mass digitisation of in-copyright material for the benefit of research, education, the technology sector and the economy overall.

The British Library is urging parliamentarians to support these measures on orphan works licensing and extended collective licensing (Clause 59).

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library said: “The British Library holds a vast amount of material from the 20th century that could be digitised were it not for insurmountable hurdles in the current system.

“Many major digitisation projects never get off the ground because of the time it takes to identify individual rightsholders, particularly for non-commercial work, and often this process is unsuccessful. We estimate that over 40% of our in-copyright collections are orphan works, for which the rights holder could not be identified. An anomaly of the current framework means that the Library holds many thousands of manuscripts that are well over a century old that are still subject to copyright restrictions.

“By digitising material and making it available online, the British Library, our users and partners would benefit from greater research opportunities that would feed innovation in education, cultural initiatives and new commercial ideas.”

Clause 59 would introduce a process for orphan works rights clearance and streamline the licensing procedure for in-copyright material en masse while ensuring the interests of rightsholders are protected. Solutions for orphan works and extended collective licensing are already a feature in other countries including Japan, Scandinavia, Canada and India.

These measures form part of the proposals recommended by Professor Hargreaves, and endorsed by Government, in the Review of Intellectual Property and Growth (May 2011). The British Library has previously expressed support for the recommendations.

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The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.  



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