UK museums want copyright changes so they can display WWI documents

Thanks to overly severe copyright laws, museums, libraries and other UK institutions have been unable to show important historical documents to the public. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (CDPA) 1988 is currently stopping an estimated 1.74 million 'orphan works' from the Great War, such as diaries and letters, from being displayed until 2039. To mark the centenary of World War One, a group including the Imperial War Museums, National Library of Scotland and the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance want the law rewritten to make these artefacts publicly accessible for the first time. Normally, the CDPA awards copyright protection for 70 years after the author's lifetime. However, unpublished works remain protected for 50 years after the 1989 Act, regardless of when they were written. The new campaign, centered around a petition, requests that the same rules be applied to both published and unpublished texts, ensuring that museums won't have to display blanks signs with "there would have been a letter from a First World War soldier in this display" inside their exhibits.

[Image credit: Horia Varlan, Flickr]