Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Museums, Libraries and Archives Council

  The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), together with its nine Regional Agencies work in partnership to provide strategic direction and leadership to museums, libraries and archives across England. Our common purpose is to improve people's lives through access to the collections and resources of museums, libraries and archives—building knowledge, supporting learning, inspiring creativity and celebrating identity. The partners act collectively for the benefit of the sector and the public, leading the transformation of museums, libraries and archives for the future.


  The rise of the creative economy is drawing the spheres of innovation (technological creativity), business (economic creativity) and culture (artistic and cultural creativity) into one another ... Florida. Richard Florida, The rise of the creative class (New York, 2004),

  The creative economy is one built on the culture and values of the cultural sector, including museums, archives and libraries, to incubate and inspire creativity and generate new concepts, proposals, prototypes and products. It thrives on the abilities that the sector fosters, as described in MLA's Inspiring Learning for All []. Described as the "generic learning outcomes" of personal development and self learning, these are:

    —  knowledge and understanding;

    —  activity behaviour and progression;

    —  skills;

    —  attitudes and values; and

    —  enjoyment, inspiration, creativity.

  Museums, archives and libraries support creative industries probably as much as they do industry and commerce in any other area of the economy. They operate in key areas that are essential to the evolution of this critical part of the economy:

    —  Enabling access to knowledge resources.

    —  Collecting, managing and preserving the nation's knowledge and cultural resources The cultural heritage of Britain is housed in archive, print, sound, visual and digital media in the museums, archives and libraries of Britain.

    —  Information, for SME's in particular, which form a significant portion of the human dimension of the creative economy and the majority of emergent creative enterprises.

    —  Experience and expertise in issues associated with control, deposit, security, rights, distribution and all matters associated with the dilemma that is careful handling and effective exploitation of knowledge and cultural assets.

    —  Nurturing skills of literacy, speaking and listening skills, information and media literacies and creative reading and writing prepares children and young people to operate both as consumers and a creator.

  Access to global learning and communications technologies is now pervasive in all libraries in Britain.

    —  The development of the People's Network has ensured that all public libraries are connected to the interent, and form the backbone of the Ukonline Centre network. Millions of UK citizens are able to easily use the internet to access global information resources and dialogues.

    —  Through the People's Network Service, public libraries now provide 24/7 services for enquiries with access to expert searchers, remote access to electronic learning and information resources.

    —  The collections of all public and academic libraries are described and listed on the web. Resources are immediately available through this route.

    —  In academic libraries there is a direct association between the library and the academic capacity of the institution.

    —  The British Library is promoted as holding "the world's knowledge" housing as it does in analogue and increasingly digital format, so much of the record of human experience.

    —  Libraries have an increasing amount of web-based information and support resources for SME's in both information and digital sources as resources for creativity.

    —  the existing creator through access to previous works of creativity in whatever medium or format.

  Archives preserve unique resources covering every aspect of the UK's history (along with links to other nations and cultures), its interests, its business life and its creativity. It is not overstating the importance of archives to suggest that without their existence there would be no real sense of history, whether of the last ten years or the last thousand years. But this role is changing with the digital environment, as information, from public and private sectors alike, is increasingly available only in digital form. Archival records are also evidential components of the official record and are therefore essential to understanding the processes of decision-making and governance. Preserving and managing these records has a long and honourable history. This role has become increasingly important to public life as the Freedom of Information Act, the Data Protection Act, the demands of electronic records management and increasing media scrutiny of government have brought new responsibilities to all public authorities for the care of archives and current administrative records. MLA is a founder member of the Digital Preservation Coalition [], which aims to tackle some of these issues.

  MLA has identified that more needs to be done to enable easier access for all to the knowledge held in cultural institutions that is a driver for the Knowledge Economy. In July 2005, MLA published a Briefing Sheet on a vision for a Knowledge Web.

  "There's a wealth of publicly-funded content online, all from trusted sources and all intended to contribute to people's knowledge, learning and cultural enrichment. But the web is driven by commercial pressures, and the public realm gets swamped in the world's mega market place. The Knowledge Web will allow people to find the information they want without needing to know which institutions or websites they're looking for. Personalisation will mean that they will be presented with the type of information that fits their learning style, is relevant to where they live, and builds upon their existing knowledge.

  There is already a wealth of digital content on the web from museums, libraries and archives. The Knowledge Web will provide new links between collections and, most important, help to select the material that is most relevant to the needs of the particular user.

  DCMS, DfES and MLA have jointly agreed the need for closer collaboration in this area, and work is already underway. MLA is chairing a public-sector wide group to unlock public sector content, which includes DfES, BECTa, British Library, BBC and many others. Plans for the Creative Archive, led by the BBC, Channel 4, BFI and the Open University, concentrating on moving image material, are consistent with this approach.

  Critical next steps for this programme are:

    —  Adopt the Knowledge Web as a policy objective for DCMS and its sponsored bodies

    —  Develop strategic leadership across a fragmented area, and enable shared development at a regional level to deliver cost savings.

    —  Release capital investment to develop the infrastructure and tools needed to develop the Knowledge Web.

    —  Clarify the role of Lottery Distributors, and encourage them to adopt technical and organisational approaches that will support the development of the Knowledge Web.

  As part of the UK agenda for the Presidency of the EU, plans are under way for a new Action Plan to promote the creation and integration of a European Digital Cultural Content Space, building on the ideas developed for the Knowledge Web. The Knowledge Web uses existing technologies and builds on work already underway throughout the public sector. Without any doubt, joined-up online access will revolutionise the opportunities that the cultural sector can offer to everyone. It will support the knowledge society offering a knowledge entitlement to all.

  Commitment to a shared national approach to digital infrastructure will deliver Gershon type savings by co-location of technical infrastructure and adoption of open source content platforms. An analysis carried out for the New Opportunities Fund NOF-digitise programme identified potential savings of approximately 10% across the £50 million programme."

Since this Briefing Sheet was produced, three developments have taken place

  1.  The European Commission is consulting on a Communication on the establishment of a European Digital Library, a flagship proposal in the i2010 IT Strategy. The consultation period closes on 20th January 2006. This follows a letter in April, by six European Heads of State, led by France, to the Presidents of the European Council and the Commission proposing the creation of a European digital library—making Europe's cultural and scientific record accessible for all. This was in part a reaction to Google's plans to scan the contents of millions of books from major English language research libraries.

  2.  In November 2005 the "Dynamic Action Plan for the EU Co-ordination of digitisation of cultural and scientific content" was published under the UK Presidency of the EU []. Developed by the National Representatives Group, this has the following objectives:

    —  strategic leadership;

    —  strengthening co-ordination;

    —  overcoming fragmentation;

    —  models to sustain and preserve;

    —  promote cultural and linguistic diversity; and

    —  improving online access.

  A senior member of MLA staff was nominated by DCMS in 2001 to join a European National Representatives Group on the Co-ordination of Digitisation Policies, as a response to the eEurope 2002 Action Plan. MLA and DCMS worked closely together during the UK Presidency of the EU to deliver the Dynamic Action Plan.

  3.  In December 2005, a senior member of MLA staff was seconded to the Department for Education and Skills as "Technology Adviser: Culture and Learning". The purpose of this secondment is to maximise the links between the education and cultural sectors and to advise on how the cultural sector can best support the DfES eStrategy.


  1.  The impact upon creative industries of recent and future developments in digital convergence and media technology.

  Convergence and new media further expands the creative opportunity:

    —  it offers new opportunities for creativity in new multimedia communications formats;

    —  it makes it possible to access and new digital content and product in a multiplicity of ways;

    —  it enables consumers to become creators, and to actively engage in cultural and artistic debate;

    —  it opens up new markets; and

    —  it enhances opportunities for creative learning.

  In the context of the creative economy it will be necessary for people to possess new and different skills. The rate of technological change combined with the exponential growth in product mean that early formal education and skills training will be superseded even earlier by ongoing and accelerating change.



    —  Britain is already disadvantaged by high levels of functional illiteracy.

    —  This is paralleled by poor achievement in information and media literacies.

    —  Change is too fast for formal education to keep up.

    —  The economic advantage of Britain's manufacturing economic legacy is in danger of being lost to economies that can adapt to new technologies and creative industries.


    —  Britain should build on its substantial education systems to modernize and focus on creative industries.

    —  Creative industries are a growing area of the economy.

    —  There are many areas of creative activity at which Britain excels that will invest directly or indirectly in the creative economy.

  Britain's museums, libraries and archives are the best places for creative learning at all levels and ages, where they have spaces, capacity, digital infrastructure, workforce capacity and a momentum to engage with media literacy and the creation of new digital content. Highly trusted and valued by their communities, they can do much to support and drive high levels of media literacy.

  2.  The effects upon the various creative industries of unauthorised reproduction and dissemination of creative content, particularly using new technology; and what steps can or should be taken—using new technology, statutory protection or other means—to protect creators; Museums, libraries and archives have a particular role to play in the debate about Intellectual Property Rights and Digital Rights Management. As institutions, they wish to enable the democratisation of access to information and knowledge, whilst also seeking to respect the rights of creators at all times and acting as creators themselves. The emergence of the Open Source and Creative Commons models have stimulated much debate in these areas.

  In these circumstances the sector has welcomed the review of IPR being undertaken by the Government in the Gowers Review. MLA would like to see the emergence of policies that enable a fair balance between access and the protection of the rights of creators, and particularly the ways in which existing exceptions can be implemented in a digital environment.

  Specifically MLA would like to see:

    —  an agreed balance between intellectual property rights and access, including a new model equivalent to library lending for the digital age;

    —  accessibility for those with disabilities to digital content;

    —  mechanisms which ensure that digital content can be preserved for the long term;

    —  simple mechanisms to enable rights clearance of "orphan works" for non-commercial use; and

  These key issues can be enabled or restricted by the implementation of the IPR and DRM mechanisms.

  3.  The extent to which a regulatory environment should be applied to creative content accessed using non-traditional media platforms.

  A regulatory environment is required to enable the fair balance between the rights of creators and enabling access to creative content, subject to the principles outlined above.

  4.  Where the balance should lie between the rights of creators and the expectations of consumers in the context of the BBC's Creative Archive and other developments.

  MLA has recently agreed to join the Creative Archive Licencing Group, along with Channel 4, the Open University, Teachers TV, Community Channel, British Film Institute and the BBC. MLA has taken this decision as we wish to actively engage in the debate about how creative content can be made widely available for non-commercial purposes, whilst at the same time preserving the commercial interests of creators.

  Museums, libraries and archives across the country hold resources that support learning, discovery, analysis and creativity, in much the same was as the BBC holds its archive, and many of the issues that these institutions face are similar. However, it is important to recognise that the open content licencing is not the same things as supporting piracy. A key challenge is to create the conditions where consumers are easily able to understand how they can use and re-use content to support their own creativity, as well as to understand how they cannot.

  Consumers of digital content are supplied with resources, such as movie trailers and adverts, which they are encouraged to send to their friends and colleagues by the creators. This content may be protected by a copyright symbol that means that this act is technically illegal. In this environment the current copyright and licencing systems cannot be easily understood by consumers, and the challenge is to find ways that clearly establish the boundary between an illegal act and enabling creativity. The Creative Archive Licence is an interesting experiment in enabling creativity, whilst possibly enabling commercial opportunities that must be based upon respect for the rights of creators.

  The BBC archive itself would be an enormous asset to boost creativity and learning across the country. The impact of this has already been ably demonstrated by the British Pathe newsreel archive. This was digitised by funding from the Big Lottery Fund, where MLA acted as Expert Advisers. The project made over 6,000 hours of footage available, and has been enthusiastically taken up by the public. At the same time, high quality film is made available to schools through the authenticated National Education Network, and has enabled the sale and re-use of material through commercial licencing. It is a model of a win—win project that is supporting creativity and learning, whilst also enabling commercial success.

  In this context, making the BBC Archive, along with the archives of other broadcasters, more widely available would be widely welcomed. MLA would like to see how this resource could be made available by libraries as intermediaries, particularly through the People's Network. This would build on the library traditions of experience and achievement in delivering mediated access to information and knowledge in an environment of respect for intellectual property, intelligent management and trust by communities.

  In turn, subject to agreement on rights issues, museums, libraries and archives can add enormous public value to the archive by re-purposing the content to tell the stories associated with collections and communities across the country. The archive can be supplemented by the experiences and knowledge of people across the country, enabling more consumers to become media literate and engaging with their own communities.

28 February 2006

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