Gordian Knot of Copyrights

Within the Digitization Project of Kindred Languages, we needed to tackle the questions on copyrights too. As there were no preceding models on how to deal with them, we needed to create new practices here. The Executive Director of National Library Resource, Mr. Oleg Makhno, highlights in his blog entry how the copyrights were taken into consideration, without using the sword to solve the problem.

It seemed to be a bit of challenge for me when the National Library of Finland let us know of its projects to settle copyright issues regarding the Finno-Ugric collections stored in the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg. It was unclear how to deal with the issue since there were no precedents regarding copyright clearance to the benefit of a foreign organization; moreover, the project included conditions of granting the right to demonstrate collections through public networks; moreover, it was demanded that such right be provided on a permanent basis. This clearly differs from common practice applied to Russian libraries according to which digital copies of the works provided by libraries for temporal use may be accessed only on library premises provided that the possibility to make digital copies of these works is excluded.

It is standard practice for National Library Resource to make copyright clearance for the State Library of Russia and the National Library of Russia settling issues with concrete copyright holders, discussing terms of the use of appropriate digitalized items including regime and duration of access as well as copyright holders’ fees. This is a rather well-honed procedure since the number of items cleared to be included in the digital collections of the two biggest Russian national libraries is reaching the 20.000 mark. In addition we have gained concrete experience as a result of well-set connections with the biggest national publishing houses, who in most cases are the digital copyright holders.

In the case of Finno-Ugric collections, things were different. We made preliminary research, which confirmed our main concern that great majority of potential copyright holders cannot be found; on the other hand, according to the Russian Civil Code, one cannot make digital copy (for the aims stated in the project) without the permission of the copyright holders. Catch-22 it is called.  As it often occurs the solution was found on the edge of common sense: if there is no one legally responsible for actions regarding the copyright such responsibility should be created. This was discussed with our Finnish partner and resulted in a plan to make comprehensive full-scale research aimed to find possible copyright holders and to make well-weighted decisions regarding every case including possibilities of taking legal responsibilities in case appropriate claims should appear. As far as I know, National Library Resource is the first and only organization in Russia to conduct appropriate work, including the stated research and development of appropriate legal base resulting in appropriate legal documents stating legal responsibility of the National Library Resource to settle questions in terms of each work enumerated in the list our partner has given us.

Oleg Makhno, Executive Director, National Library Resource

E-mail: mail@natlib.ru

Web-site: www.natlib.ru

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