WIPO International Workshop on Digital Preservation and Copyright

Geneva, Switzerland (July 15, 2008)

WIPO, in cooperation with the International Digital Preservation and Copyright initiative (IDPC), organized this one-day workshop to survey recent developments and trends at the intersection of digital preservation and copyright. The workshop aimed at contributing to the debate among stakeholders and policy makers on how to develop and improve policies and practices that support digital preservation of copyrighted content.


Increasing amounts of digital content are being produced and publicly disseminated due to the growth of the digital economy.  As network technologies proliferate, information and creative materials are increasingly created in digital form.  There is also a marked trend towards transfer and migration of analog material to digital form (“digitization”), so that content can be easily and efficiently preserved, transmitted, and accessed.  And yet, from an intellectual property perspective, the preservation of digital materials raises copyright issues in ways that analog preservation does not.

Unlike analog materials, digital works do not ‘self-preserve’ if left alone in a stable environment.  Digital materials tend to degrade and lose their integrity quickly, and without warning.  As a result, content can effectively disappear without the possibility of recovery.  In addition, the formats and hardware necessary for accessing and rendering digital works in a perceptible form are becoming obsolete faster than ever, as new technologies emerge.  Thus, digital preservation now requires that multiple copies of a work be made over the course of its “lifetime,” in different formats and in different storage locations.

Digital preservation can involve the exercise of one or more of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights, especially the rights of reproduction, distribution, communication, and adaptation.  Because copyright exceptions pertaining to digital preservation are not uniform throughout the world, copyright law has different effects upon digital preservation in different jurisdictions.  The copyright-digital preservation interface also varies depending upon the nature and source of the content, whether it is in the public domain, and whether cooperative agreements between rights holders and preservationists can be achieved.

The IDPC Study, released in July 2008, is a report by organizations from Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.   It (1) reviews the current state of the copyright law and related laws applicable to digital preservation in various jurisdictions and their impact on digital preservation, (2) makes recommendations for legislative reform and/or practical solutions to ensure that cultural heritage institutions can effectively preserve digital culture and information without conflicting with the normal exploitation of copyrighted works, and (3) makes recommendations for future study or activities to further such recommendations.

Topics covered at the Workshop

  • Current  legal and contractual approaches to accommodating digital preservation and copyright in specific jurisdictions;
  • Copyright issues specific to the preservation of eJournals;
  • Copyright issues specific to the preservation of newspapers and images;
  • Copyright issues specific to the preservation of online content (eg webpages); and
  • An assessment of the current state, and possible future use, of legislative and voluntary measures to strengthen the links between digital preservation and copyright law.