ILP Lab calls for regulatory action to save the online cultural heritage

The ILP Lab has published a policy paper discussing the most important issues that need to be taken into consideration when creating web harvesting legislation for cultural heritage institutions (CHIs). Background for this paper is the situation in the Netherlands, which as one of few countries has no legal provision enabling CHIs to engage in web harvesting for the purpose of collection building. The need for this type of regulation however has been expressed by several CHIs and has also been acknowledged in European and international policy documents. It is in the public interest that our digital history and heritage be collected and preserved for future generations, without infringing upon any individual intellectual property rights. Every day that no adequate legal tool for web harvesting exists, more and more of the online cultural heritage will be lost.

The policy paper explains how web harvesting concepts are defined and the preservation of their (digital) cultural heritage is handled in various countries, showing that most countries have a legal basis for web harvesting in deposit legislation. On the basis of an in-depth analysis of key issues that are relevant when exploring and creating legislation enabling CHIs to actively conduct domain crawls and preserve web content, the paper discusses which entities should be allowed to legally harvest and at which content web crawls should and could be directed. The analysis leads to two different suggestions for introducing provisions offering a broad legal basis for CHIs to harvest and preserve online cultural heritage without infringing intellectual property rights. A new copyright exception is proposed, as well as a whole new legal framework in the form of deposit legislation.

The policy paper was written by Luna Schumacher, Stefan van Kolfschooten and DaniĆ«l Soons, in partnership with the National Library of the Netherlands (Koninklijke Bibliotheek) and the Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision (Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld & Geluid). The paper aims to provide input to the recent plans in the Netherlands to examine the possibilities of introducing web harvesting legislation. The make-shift solutions that Dutch CHIs are currently utilizing are not sufficient. Therefore, the authors call upon the Dutch legislator to take swift action and help our national institutions save our society’s digital footprint. The policy paper also contains valuable information for other countries that want to introduce or renew existing web harvesting provisions.

You can download the policy paper here.