Most researchers are familiar with the ’70 year rule’ – that copyright expires 70 years after the death of the author. But this currently only applies to published works. As mentioned in our previous blog post, the copyright of unpublished manuscripts, such as handwritten literary drafts or musical scores, remains with the author’s descendants until 2039, regardless of the age of the manuscript. Where a descendant cannot be traced, the work is classed as orphan.
Orphan works cannot be reproduced in any form until 2039. The British Library estimate that orphan works constitute 40% of works held by European archives – a vast reserve of knowledge unable to be shared beyond the confines of the reading room. Of particular concern are archives held in actively decaying formats such as celluloid film and audio tape. If such a work is orphan, it is currently illegal for archivists to create even a single digital copy in order to safeguard a recording’s future.
The news that the UK Government has accepted the recommendations of the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property, and the changes this will mean for copyright law, will be a great relief to those caring for and working with archives.
The Government plans to implement a Digital Copyright Exchange. This will allow archives to purchase a copyright licence for a nominal fee, which will allow them to reproduce and share the orphan works in their care. The funds will be held by the Exchange against the possibility of the copyright holder coming forward and seeking recompense. In the event that this does not occur, the funds will be released after a reasonable period of time, and allocated for social or cultural purposes.
SCOLAR will report on confirmed changes to copyright law when they are announced this autumn.
SCOLAR recently received a request to perform a piece of music by Welsh composer Morfydd Owen at the Machynlleth Music Festival. This handwritten musical score is held in SCOLAR; it is perhaps the only copy, and has never been published. Despite being nearly 100 years old, the piece is still in copyright. Under current legislation, copyright in unpublished works is held by the descendants of the creator until 2039. Where descendants cannot be traced, the work is classed as orphan. Orphan works cannot be reproduced – whether by photocopy, photograph, or in the case of a musical or dramatic work, performance, until 2039, regardless of their age.
Anyone who has tried to trace relatives will know that the process is very complex. In the case of Morfydd Owen, the search was aided by the existence of a number of renowned family members.
We knew from a marriage certificate in the archive that Morfydd married psychoanalyst and biographer of Freud, Ernest Jones. Morfydd died childless at the age of 27, but Ernest went on to have four children by a later marriage. One of them was writer Mervyn Jones, who died last year. Fortunately, due to Mervyn’s renown, he had a literary agent, who kindly passed on the contact details of Mervyn’s daughter. As the granddaughter of Morfydd’s husband’s second wife, she was very surprised to find out that she had responsibility for granting copyright permission for Morfydd’s work. We are very grateful to her, not only for permitting the performance at Machynlleth, but also for allowing SCOLAR to grant copyright permission on her behalf for the collection in future. Not only will the performance go ahead, but Morfydd’s wartime compositions are now able to feature in an upcoming bid to JISC to digitise Welsh World War One archives.
We are very pleased to announce that Morfydd’s Piano Trio will be performed by the Milos Milivojevic and the Juritz Quartet at the Machynlleth Music Festival, which runs from 21-28 August 2011.
SCOLAR will shortly be reporting on recently announced proposed changes to copyright law which will hopefully lessen the burden on researchers wishing to reproduce or perform orphan works.