Seanad debates

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Digital Archiving

12:00 pm

Photo of Fintan WarfieldFintan Warfield (Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, for coming to the House. I hope he will share the details of this discussion with the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Deputy Catherine Martin. I would have appreciated the Minister's presence here today, but I know she will be at the Oireachtas committee meeting on Wednesday. I thank the Minister for State for his time.

We are losing web records at an alarming rate. Some 60% of the national libraries across Europe have in place adequate copyright law to allow them to collect appropriately the contents of state domain websites, which in our case is the .ie domain. The relevant legislation here is the Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Act 2019. I have been covering this issue for many years. I met representatives of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment when that Bill came before these Houses. The Seanad passed an amendment to that Bill that I brought forward, but it was later removed by the then Minister, John Halligan.

Section 108 of the Act stipulates that, within 12 months of enactment, the Government shall bring forward a report on the feasibility of establishing a digital web archive or digital legal deposit. Twelve months have well and truly passed. In fact, the President signed the Act into law on 26 June 2019. As it stands, the National Library of Ireland is anxious that we are losing web records at an alarming rate. I am anxious the Government is breaking the law because it has not brought forward that report. The National Library of Ireland is concerned, and understandably so, that by not copying websites with the .ie domain, it is in breach of current copyright law. The library's representatives recently told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media that for each year they are unable to collect or disseminate the contents of the .ie domain websites, approximately 50% of web records are lost.

As I have said before, a black hole will be created in our country's memory if we continue to fail to put in place a digital legal deposit. The hold-up seems to be in the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, which I understand was given the responsibility for producing a report on the feasibility of establishing the scheme. What is the Minister's view of what the scheme should look like? When will the report be brought to Cabinet? As I mentioned, the Government is now breaking the law on this issue. We are facing excessive loss of online material for the current and future generations. It seems there is no urgency from Ministers to take ownership of the issue and to set up a digital legal deposit scheme.


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