Table of Contents
The Public Sphere and Intellectual Property Rights
The Development of a ‘Digital Heritage Commons’: Regional Initiatives
- The Dematerialization of Culture and the De-accessioning of Museum Collections Bruno S. Frey and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett
The cultural heritage in digital form is an important, if recent, focus of international policy-making in areas other than the conceptual and strategic ones covered in issue nº 215 of Museum International. Various interests are at stake in this novel cultural object, firstly because of its commercial value, enhanced by its inherent trading potential, and secondly because of the role it plays in signalling a regional presence at the level of a globalized world.
The second part of Museum International’s inquiry into heritage issues in the information society opens with contributions dealing with the legislative and ethical aspects of digital content, given that the use of such content in the social and economic sphere falls primarily within the province of intellectual property law. This large and complex subject is currently being debated in various international fora (WIPO, ECOSOC) as well as in professional circles (notably museums). The intention of Museum International in this issue has been to set out as clearly as possible the terms of this debate, on the basis of specific examples drawn from the different categories of heritage – both tangible and intangible – as well as to consider the status of the museum in the public sphere.
For such is the complexity of interest at stake in legal provisions relating to the use of the digital heritage that their effective introduction requires - in addition to an ethics consonant with basic human rights and particularly the right to knowledge - an imaginative disposition and willingness to devise innovative solutions and eschew dogmatic attitudes. It may indeed seem at odds with its responsibility for educating and spreading knowledge that a public institution owning or producing digital content should defend its interests by restricting the use of that content. However, where an institution fails to protect itself effectively and to turn to account the product of its own activity, it may be jeopardizing its own existence. At a time when public investment in the cultural field is contracting globally, where is the extra funding needed for museum development to be found? In many cases, the use of digital by-products to generate the profits required to maintain the public service function may seem a lesser evil in the wider context of the commercialization of cultural resources. There is reason to believe, then, that the economically motivated concern in the digital world with the problems of production cost and access to knowledge does not necessarily challenge the state of affairs in the real world.
The second part of our enquiry aims to highlight the wide range of initiatives for the networking of cultural resources and to bring out their representative status. This regional approach should reveal the presence of the digital cultural heritage at an intermediate level and also illustrate the principle of turning to maximum account resources in which the public has a vested interest. Although less well known than global and national networks or specifically professional ones (icom.org or icomos.org), regional networks nevertheless play a significant role in the perception of diversity at the global level. The impression of imbalance that may arise from the differing states of development of these regional networks described in this issue should not mask their effectiveness and importance for heritage institutions in the regions concerned. Moreover, the constitution of a digital common on behalf and for the use of the general public enhances the supranational status of the institutions in question by involving them in new forms of work, including the management of digital resources. The digital cultural heritage is de facto a capital which, initially assembled in a decade of haphazard and empirical initiatives, now requires to be managed in keeping with the principles implicit in the generic term ‘global governance’. The exploration of these principles with reference to the digital cultural heritage - particularly to the question of whether the digital cultural heritage is a “common public good” - should doubtless be the subject of another issue of Museum International.
We have also continued in this issue to provide selected statistics concerning the information society as a whole, the cultural heritage in particular and the place of the cultural heritage in the information society, with the aim of stimulating research and the compilation of new data on the digital cultural heritage. New phenomena arise at the intersection of the real world and the digital world, and there is an urgent need to define, analyse and monitor the evolution of these new phenomena, such as the impact of virtualization on the exploitation of the cultural heritage, the updating of specific economic models of the digital world, the influence of digital media on cultural and political balances, and the retroactive effect of the development of law applicable to the digital environment on fundamental and cultural rights. This domain of real/virtual interactions, largely unexplored in the case of the cultural heritage, is nonetheless crucial for the construction of a knowledge society. Indeed, the digital world is no more the result of the projection of the real world in the binary realm than it is a world apart, parallel and irreducible to the real world, developing its own practices and usages. In our view, it is undoubtedly at the intersection of these two worlds, that of social and virtual reality, that the shape of a future knowledge society is determined.
A few years ago, the work of the international community led to the emergence of new paradigms concerning the relationship between culture and development. Considerable efforts were made to produce statistical data and cultural indicators that could serve as the basis for new policies. In the information society, culture is central to the process of transition towards a knowledge society. It is thus equally important to further the creation of new tools enabling us to quantify the cultural phenomena of the digital world. Top
Individual or Collective Rights for Cultural Heritage in the Information Society? Lyndel Prott
Intellectual property rights are generally organized as rights of individuals, while the concept of heritage is related to community. One of the most important contributions of intellectual property law to the management and exchange of ideas is that it identifies the source for authorization of use very clearly. Unfortunately it is just this element which creates difficulty for a good deal of heritage. 'Heritage' presupposes more than one person: for a culture to exist, there must be a plurality. These matters become much more difficult when discussing non-material types of culture. For example, many peoples are bearers of unwritten cultures which are transmitted from generation to generation. No one person can be considered as 'owning' them. Who, then, controls the exploitation of images of that heritage? How does collective responsibility relate to individual rights on digital contents? Top
Museums and Digital Rights Management Technologies Rina Elster Pantalony
How do we create legal regimes that are inherently flexible to take into account ever-changing technologies while continuing to allow for the adequate protection of intellectual property rights? How do we create protection technologies that protect the interests of intellectual property holders while at the same time allow certain types of access to the content for educational purposes? The article seeks to examine some of these issues in order to add to the discussion. It proposes to review the latest trends in digital rights management technologies and examine the 'appropriateness' for the protection of cultural heritage content on the Internet. Given the potential of the Internet to educators developing distance education programmes, sound digital rights management technologies may greatly facilitate educational access to academic content. Top
Museums, Information and the Public Sphere Barbara Lang Rottenberg
Just as the broader society is undergoing a period of re-examination in light of current economic and political uncertainties,
so too are today's museums presented with an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a public institution at this particular time in our history. What does it matter whether museums restrict their services to those who can pay? Why does it matter whether information is treated as commodity or as public good? This article invokes contemporary German philosopher Jürgen Habermas's notion of the public sphere for the insight it can provide into these issues. Habermas's work is particularly apt because it is grounded in the same cultural and political traditions in which public museums evolved. His vision of the public sphere recognizes the importance of broadly based and participatory cultural activities and corresponds with the best impulses of museums. The emphasis on democratic communication seen in his work reconfirms the need for museums to be open and inclusive. Top
The ILAM Network : Building ‘Common Cultural Property’ Georgina DeCarli
In Latin America access to the cultural and natural heritage is very far from being 'common property'. Within each of our
countries, economic, social and educational barriers are such that only a fraction of the population can make use of the services on offer in our museums. Enabling all sectors, especially the education sector, to participate is a priority for many of our museums. However, these institutions and their professionals have very limited opportunities for work, development and growth. In December 1997, the ILAM Foundation, a non-profit organization, was established within the legal framework of the Latin American Institute of Museums, which has its headquarters in San José, Costa Rica. Its purpose is to provide practical support for museums and parks in Latin America through research, communication and training to enable these institutions to be agents of change and development in the communities they serve. Top
Building a Regional Database on World Cultural Heritage Matsuda Toshinobo
The ACCU Nara Office, centre for promoting co-operation in cultural heritage protection, developed the Asia/Pacific Cultural Heritage Protection Database, containing information related to cultural heritage sites in forty-one countries in the Asia/Pacific region. This office, which is also committed to holding international conferences on related themes and developing human resources, has made the database available on the Internet. The website, comprising several pages on organizations/institutions, educational programmes/training courses, and on Japan’s international co-operation, has been upgraded recently, by adding more information and improving the design. The ACCU Nara Office has already established human networks by organizing training courses and international meetings. With co-operation from National Commissions from UNESCO, the ACCU Nara Office will select its counterparts and update the database, regularly adding further information. By disclosing study results and articles in its journals on the website, the ACCU Nara Office will also augment its functions as an information centre. Top
Digital Heritage and Cultural Content in Europe Bernard Smith
This article is designed to provide the reader with the key references concerning issues on new technologies and cultural heritage. As such it has two basic objectives. The first is to provide a factual guide to achievements of the European Commission’s Information Society technologies (IST) research programme in the field of digital heritage and cultural content. This will include some information concerning the European Commission’s new research programme for the next five years. The second objective concerns information on e-Europe, and specifically one action relating to the European Commission’s Fifth framework Programme for research and technological Development, 1998-2002. The article tries to summarize some of the formal aspects of the ongoing programme on digital heritage and cultural content. It does not attempt top outline in a systematic way the results obtained so far. The service managing the issues on digital heritage and cultural content issues a newsletter every two months that outlines progress and summarizes ongoing initiatives. Along with the website, the newsletter represents the most effective way to keep up-to-date on calls for proposals, projects being launched, and results obtained. Top
The Museums of Russia Web Portal Anna Mikhailovskaya and Kirill Nasedkin
The ‘Museums of Russia’ web portal (www.museum.ru) was the first museum portal in the Russian federation and it is still working. This does not mean that it portrays the first wave of web portals in Russia, but rather represents the evolution of information technologies in the cultural sphere of the country – though remaining quite unique itself. The Museums of Russia web portal is now well under way and it is planned increasingly to improve and develop it along with a widespread system to provide access to information, centres, or surveys of different regions (including Tatarstan and Udmurtia museums). It is the principle Russian museums resource centre, and is also used as an information and communication centre both for the public and for museums professionals. It is one of the most frequently quoted web resources on cultural sites in Russia. It has about 1,500 visitors a day and has captured the attention of more than 3 million Internet users in the country. The portal co-operates with media agencies, other Internet web portals and museum organizations. Top