Licensing audio- visual archives from a copyright perspective: between assumptions and empirical evidence
Paper Presentations III – Copyright and Sustainability
This paper focuses on the issues copyright poses to archives when they seek to make their materials available online. Licensing and especially identifying right holders crucially depends on the copyright provisions at the time when the work was made: it shapes both first ownership as well as the contractual arrangements underlying the production. However, in practice most legal analyses are based on modern law, neglecting subtle changes in the interpretation of the law over time. In addition, copyright is only part of the story: industry practices also significantly influence copyright ownership in practice. The result is that highly complex ownership patterns are commonly presumed, involving authors, producers and broadcasters. However, these theoretical conclusions have never been empirically tested. This paper addressed this gap. It compares the presumptions on who owns broadcasting material to a large dataset, covering the contractual copyright arrangements of several public service broadcasters in the Netherlands between 1951- 2010. It finds that copyright ownership in the context of broadcasting is significantly less complex than argued. Based on the empirical data, copyright ownership tends to be concentrated in the hands of few, often institutional actors. It suggests that older material in particular is likely to be owned public service broadcasters. For newer productions, the production company tends to be able to provide the required licenses.