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‘I should like you to see them some time’: an empirical study of copyright clearance costs in the digitisation of Edwin Morgan’s scrapbooks

CREATe Working Paper 2018/04

Victoria Stobo, Kerry Patterson, Kristofer Erickson & Ronan Deazley


Purpose – The inability of cultural institutions to make available digital reproductions of collected material highlights a shortcoming with the existing copyright framework in a number of national jurisdictions. Overlapping efforts to remedy the situation were recently undertaken in the form of EU Directive 2012/28/EU, the ‘Orphan Works’ directive, and a new licensing scheme introduced by the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO). This study empirically evaluates both the EU and UK policy approaches, drawing on data collected during a live rights clearance simulation.

Design/methodology/approach – The authors attempted to clear rights in a sample of 432 items contained in the mixed-media Edwin Morgan Scrapbooks collection held by the University of Glasgow Library. Data were collected on the resource costs incurred at each stage of the rights clearance process, from initial audit of the collection, through to compliance with diligent search requirements under EU Directive 2012/28/EU and the UKIPO licensing procedures.

Findings – Comparing results against the two current policy options for the use of orphan works, we find that the UKIPO licensing scheme offers a moderate degree of legal certainty but also the highest cost to institutions (the cost of diligent search in addition to licence fees).  The EU exception to copyright provides less legal certainty in the case of rightsholder re-emergence, but also retains high diligent search costs. Both policy options may be suitable for institutions wishing to make use of a small number of high-risk works, but neither approach is currently suitable for mass digitisation.

Research limitations/implications – This rights clearance exercise is focused on a single case study with unique properties (with a high proportion of partial works embedded in a work of bricolage). Consequently, the results obtained in this study reflect differences from simulation studies on other types of orphan works. However, by adopting similar methodological and reporting standards to previous empirical studies, we can compare rights clearance costs between collections of different works.

Originality/value – This study is the first to empirically assess the 2014 UK orphan works licensing scheme from an institutional perspective. We hope that it will contribute to an understanding of how policy could more effectively assist libraries and archives in their digitisation efforts.

First published in Journal of Documentation 74(3): 641-667

Download: ‘I should like you to see them some time’: an empirical study of copyright clearance costs in the digitisation of Edwin Morgan’s scrapbooks