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The Copyright Cortex: Launch Event

Posted on    by CREATe Team

The Copyright Cortex: Launch Event

By 24 July 2017March 18th, 2021No Comments

Victoria Stobo reports on the launch of the Copyright Cortex, at the British Library:

The Copyright Cortex is the brainchild of Professor Ronan Deazley of Queen’s University Belfast and CREATe postgraduate researchers Victoria Stobo and Andrea Wallace.

An online resource dedicated to copyright and digital cultural heritage, it was developed to provide libraries, archives, museums and other memory institutions with information and expert commentary on how copyright law affects the creation and management of digital cultural heritage.

The website has two features: firstly, it’s a catalogue. It brings together a wide range of material relating to copyright and digital cultural heritage: scholarly publications, practical guidance, policy documentation, and real world case studies. Secondly, it includes an open access text for cultural heritage practitioners: Copyright and Digital Cultural Heritage (or Copyright 101). The book is free to read online, and free to download. It presents a comprehensive introduction to copyright law for memory institutions, focusing specifically on how copyright impacts access to and use of digital cultural heritage materials within and across national borders.

Ronan Deazley speaking at the event (Photo from @copyrightuser Twitter account)

The launch event for the website was held at the British Library on 20th June 2017. After opening remarks from Professor Ronan Deazley, invited speakers Professor Lionel Bently (University of Cambridge), Jill Cousins (Director, and Ben White (Head of IP, British Library) shared their first impressions of the resource and their thoughts on the law with over 50 cultural heritage professionals in attendance.

Lionel Bently drew attention to Section 296ZF of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA), as an example of how complicated the CDPA has become, and the ways in which the practical application of the law has become more and more complex. This section refers to the interpretation of Section 296 in general, which concerns circumvention of technical protection measures (TPMs) that can be applied to various types of digital content. In 2015, the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance complained to the IPO that the text and data mining exception was rendered effectively useless by TPMs like CAPTCHA, and other reports show that they continue to be a practical barrier to computational analysis of large datasets. Bently’s suggested solution was to campaign for greater simplicity within the law, flexibility regarding exceptions and definitions in the law, and clear immunity for those engaged in public interest or non-commercial acts. He also advised the cultural heritage professions to take more risks when making their collections available online, and observed that the Copyright Cortex could be a useful source of examples of risk analysis and management strategies.

Jill Cousins explained that, as part of her work with Europeana, she has been actively engaged in the European copyright reform process for several years. She outlined a ‘wish list’ to help make the law more accessible and encourage greater use of digital heritage collections: evidence of the need for copyright reform, evidence of the benefits of making collections and collections data ‘open’, and clear, plain language guidance on the law. This would enable the sector to campaign more effectively and persuasively for reform, and help to build the confidence of professionals through training on the acts permitted by the law. As such, she welcomed the Copyright Cortex as a significant contribution to those aims.

Ben White expressed gratitude that the need for evidence, guidance and support for the cultural heritage sector had been recognised and addressed by the Copyright Cortex team and the partners they had brought together to contribute to the project. He highlighted that cultural heritage institutions still have a very mixed approach to ‘openness’ and the management of copyright in the way they make their collections and collections data available online, and noted that the Cortex’s use of Creative Commons licensing was a step in the right direction.

The website is currently in beta and more studies and resources will be added over the coming months, including new chapters of Copyright and Digital Cultural Heritage from Jane Secker and Chris Morrison, Mathilde Pavis, Victoria Stobo and Andrea Wallace. We hope that the Copyright Cortex will become an essential and invaluable tool for cultural heritage professionals. If you have suggestions or comments on the site please drop us a line at

We are grateful to our partners, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, CREATe, Research Councils UK, Europeana, the CILIP Information Literacy Group, Elucidate, and Queen’s University Belfast for all their support.

You can see more tweets from the launch event and further developments as they happen using #copyrightcortex on Twitter.