NLW Digitisation Proposals
Peter Finch discusses the copyright issue here in an article from his weekly column in the Western Mail, The Insider.
I am at the Coliseum Theatre in Aberdare to witness the Arts Council of Wales revealing its five-year plan. The theatre is refurbished pre-war, sat on Aberdare’s northern reaches. It’s now part of the local authority’s leisure provision. I’ve picked up a programme and the place zings. On stage Dai Smith has got away with a politically incorrect joke and is now expounding the need for visionary plans. In the arts we need a Trotsky, he tells us. We need a permanent revolution.
The hall is thick with the arts community, bright-faced, many surprised to be in a valley town where the valley sides do not loom and where the world is not cold and dark. Peter Tyndall, outgoing ACW CEO and soon to be the Wales Ombudsman, is on his feet answering a fourteenth question from the same person. Are these five year plans immutable? No they are not.
During the coffee break those who have not escaped out into the bright sunlight to smoke are required to pose questions and make comments on post-it notes. These are affixed across the five-year plan consultation wall posters like a dose of yellow measles. Someone has written Pay Artists More and another has made a comment about Copyright. Neither of these get a mention in the session that follows. More money is scarce. Copyright is a hot potato.
Out there on the battle lines, currently ringing the National Library’s digitisation project at Aberystwyth, the estate of R S Thomas has just weighed in. Work by our greatest twentieth century poet will not be included for free on the web. Before it does money will need to change hands. Copyright is the author’s only protection against the let’s make it free-forever barbarians. Copyright is also pretty boring and massively misunderstood.
Someone has written in to the Academi's on-line debate on the subject suggesting that if writers can claim copyright on what they do then so too can carpenters, bricklayers and builders. Why shouldn’t plumbers, for example, get an extra fee everytime they weld a new pipe joint? They created it, didn’t they? Why shouldn’t they be entitled to copyright too? Clearly in twentieth century Wales the concept of intellectual ownership has a fair way to go.
Back in the Theatre talk has moved through change vs. resource, to need vs. quality and on to the new concept of beacons. Despite a large slice of Welsh lottery money going to help fund the London Olympics some extra has still been found. This will fund those with the brightest ideas who have the best track records and who can spend the money well. There’s not a huge amount available but it’s better than nothing. News on where it will be going should be available by April.
15 March 2008