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IRIS 2012-8:1/4

Parliamentary Assembly

Safeguarding Audiovisual Cultural Heritage

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Tarlach McGonagle

Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam

On 25 May 2012 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted Recommendation 2001 (2012), “Protection of and access to the audiovisual cultural heritage”.

The Recommendation opens with a number of contextualising remarks, e.g., that the media advance cultural education; that the audiovisual media offer an important basis for “common cultural experiences”; that digital media create new opportunities for recording and accessing audiovisual material, and that copyright issues govern the online distribution of audiovisual material in relevant ways.

The Recommendation then welcomes initiatives like the European Commission’s “European Film Gateway” project (which provides a “single access point to films, images and texts from selected collections of 16 film archives across Europe”: http://www.europeanfilmgateway.eu/) and Europeana project (which provides “a single access point to millions of books, paintings, films, museum objects and archival records that have been digitised throughout Europe”: http://www.europeana.eu/portal/). It “recognises the need for establishing networks of public and private institutions active in audiovisual heritage in Europe”. It “notes commercial projects such as the Google Book Library Project, but emphasises that ensuring diversity of audiovisual heritage may require also public support, especially where audiovisual material does not appeal to a sufficiently large and commercially important group of viewers”. Finally, in this vein, it appreciates existing (named) examples of public audiovisual archives, libraries and museums at the national level and calls for such examples to be followed elsewhere.

The Recommendation includes specific focuses on the potential roles of public libraries and public service broadcasters (PSBs) in protecting and ensuring access to audiovisual cultural heritage. Audiovisual libraries (with physical and/or online presences) should therefore be developed and expanded. Audiovisual material and archives of audiovisual heritage held by PSBs and production companies should be preserved and made publicly available in copyright-compliant ways.

The Recommendation stresses the central importance of the European Convention for the Protection of the Audiovisual Heritage and its Additional Protocol, before unveiling its most far-reaching suggestion, viz., that a new, second additional protocol to the Convention could help States “to make audiovisual cultural heritage accessible through audiovisual archives and libraries”. It reasons: “Such a protocol should strengthen the protection of the audiovisual cultural heritage through public audiovisual libraries and clarify for States the possibilities of using copyright-protected audiovisual material for educational and research purposes”. The PACE therefore asks the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to initiate a feasibility study on the drawing up of a second additional protocol to the Convention.

Concrete recommendations are also put forward to: “develop guidelines for ensuring access to audiovisual heritage for people with disabilities”, and to invite the European Broadcasting Union to “develop, in partnership with the Council of Europe, joint strategies and concrete action for the protection of, and access to, audiovisual material held by public service broadcasters in Europe”.

“Protection of and access to the audiovisual cultural heritage”, Recommendation 2001 (2012), Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 25 May 2012 EN