Wednesday, 23 May 2018
I welcome the Minister of State. I requested the presence of the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to address the upcoming Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Bill 2018 in the knowledge that it would soon be taken in the Chamber. It was my hope some clarity could be provided on the amendment to section 198 of the principal Act. It is my belief and that of many within libraries and the heritage sector that there is a serious omission from the amendment that will result in an increasing hole in national memory which will make the future understanding of our society difficult. This is a live issue as the average life of a webpage is 100 days. Currently, legal deposit legislation provides that a library, for example, has a responsibility to obtain every hard copy publication in the State. That provision needs to be adapted for the digital age. Libraries must be able to harvest the dot ie domain. We entrust them with the responsibility to collect hard copies and it is time to do the same for digital formats. The consultation process on the Bill came within the remit of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, but the Bill comes within the remit of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. I wonder whether if the two Departments are talking about this. Have they explored the recommendations made in the report of the copyright review committee?
The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht thanks the Senator for raising this issue. Legal deposit legislation is an important instrument in national cultural policy. In most countries it is relied on to ensure the published output of the nation is collected and preserved by one or more prescribed institutions in order that citizens and researchers within the country and abroad will be guaranteed permanent access to the intellectual and cultural memory of the nation.
Under the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000, there are 13 prescribed institutions that are legal deposit libraries, of which the National Library of Ireland Is one. The remainder include the main university libraries such as Trinity College Dublin, the National University of Ireland and the University of Limerick, as well as UK-based libraries such as the British Library and the national libraries of Wales and Scotland. Last year the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht undertook a public consultation process on the legal deposit of published digital material in the 21st century in the context of copyright legislation. A total of 42 submissions were received in response from members of the public, publishers and the library and archives community. In the consultation process the views of stakeholder were sought on whether policy on legal deposit should include the collecting, preserving and making available of all contemporary publication formats, including online digital formats such as websites.
I will summarise the findings of the consultation process. There was general agreement that a failure to provide for policy extensions to keep pace with technology would have serious consequences for academic research and access to information for Irish citizens and could lead to an increasing digital black hole. There are opportunities to innovate and explore new ways of interrogating data, as well as recognition of the fundamental principle of the provision of continuing access to information as part of a fully functioning society. Access to material under copyright should be balanced with respect for the privacy of the individual, the rights of content creators and publishers, for whom their content is their economic livelihood. Responses from national libraries in other European countries highlighted the fact that such legislation was in situin their countries and was, in effect, a best international practice requirement in this area.
The Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. In March the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation published the Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Bill 2018, which includes a provision to amend the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 aimed at broadening the copyright deposit system to enable existing copyright deposit institutions to accept published material in digital format, as well as, or instead of, physical copies.This amendment is aimed at broadening the copyright deposit system to enable existing copyright deposit institutions to accept published material in digital format as well as, or instead of, physical copies. The amendment will allow copyright deposit institutions to accept publications in electronic format on a voluntary basis while creating an obligation on publishers to comply with any request for such material in electronic format. The Bill is on Second Stage in the Dáil and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht continues to liaise with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation regarding it.
I thank the Minister of State. His response was extremely positive until the second last paragraph which stated that the amendment would allow copyright deposit institutions to accept publications in electronic format and require publishers to comply with any request. It is impossible for the National Library of Ireland, for example, to contact the several million websites we have in this country. It has already swept the ".ie" domain and it cannot obviously display that information on site at the library or online for the public to see. As such, we need stronger legislation.
The current proposal is silent on web archiving. The copyright review group proposed legislation, including a provision to the effect that it would not be an infringement of the rights conferred in the Act if a board or authority reproduced any work made available in the State through the Internet. We will seek to propose amendments if the Bill remains as it is when it comes to the Seanad. It would be disappointing if we allowed the Bill to go through the Oireachtas without making this amendment and allowed the legislation to remain silent on web archiving.
I understand the points the Senator makes. They appear to be valid suggestions. He makes the point that submission of the data would be on voluntary basis and the Bill should be strengthened in that regard. As I outlined, the Bill is on Second Stage in the Dáil and there is still ample opportunity for the Houses to deal with some of that detail, in particular on Committee Stage. The submissions which have been made can be reviewed. In that context, amendments can certainly be made to the legislation if the Houses so approve.