Digitisation and copyright, do we know enough about it?
Institutional Communication Service
7 May 2018
In the broad world of information and communication technologies, the transition from analogue – do we still remember how a fax machine works? – to digital technology has, among other things, led to radical changes in work processes in many areas of human activity (today, for example, we talk about the so-called "digital economy"). The sudden paradigm shift has had an impact also on one of the foundations of civil society, the legislative system, which has thus developed its own "digital law". Why? First, the ubiquitous nature of information in digital form and freely available does not mean “anything goes” in terms of usage and reproduction rights. The challenge, however, is to know how to operate in the new context and to understand what is legit and what is not. For example, is it OK to digitize (scan) a photographic image without the author's consent? Or, in the field of education, can a school or a university publish on its website photos portraying its students, without their consent? In the field of publishing, music or literature, what is a publishing contract? Finally, how can we protect intellectual property?
Digitisation in the education sector is an increasingly relevant matter, especially in academia and in the field of scientific research, with issues relating to copyright, intellectual property and knowledge transfer (see also related article on Technology Transfer at USI). Officials at swissuniversities – the Federal organization responsible for the coordination of university policy in the country and abroad – are well aware of the topic and have thus decided to supported a project, within its Scientific Information program, for the creation of a Competence Center in Digital Law (CCdigitallaw), in a collaboration network of Swiss universities that includes USI, the universities of Basel, Neuchâtel and Geneva, and the Conference of Swiss Libraries. CCdigitallaw aims at supporting and raising awareness among Swiss university personnel (faculty, researchers, librarians, IT and administrative staff, etc.) about the risks of digitisation, new media and digital technologies, and the legal issues involved.
The Competence Center focuses primarily on the topic of copyright. CCdigitallaw offers a series of online resources, such as FAQs, detailed reference texts explaining applicable law, case studies, etc., alongside an online advisory function (chat). The knowledge database is constantly updated and enhanced by the addition of (anonymised) questions and answers, thus enabling the creation of a platform that provides the academic community - and not only - with new and up-to-date information. Future developments of CCdigitallaw shall include the addition of other topics, in particular data protection and licensing agreements.