Digitisation of Europe's film heritage

09-07-2015

EU film heritage covers over 120 years of cinema history and its technological evolution. The recent digital shift has resulted in significant digitisation of film production and distribution chains. Consequently, films produced on other formats (for example, 35mm film or magnetic recording) can only be accessed if appropriate screening equipment is preserved and operational, or the material is digitised. This challenge has redefined the scope of the work and tasks performed by European film heritage institutions. These, mostly publicly funded, bodies have a mission to preserve European films and make them accessible. The process of film heritage digitisation comprises many stages, involving both technical and legal elements. The legal issues include copyright clearance, which enables authors, producers and other rights-holders to receive payment for use or exploitation of their work. Rights management systems vary considerably between EU Member States, as do the technical solutions applied for digitising, preserving and making such digital content accessible. These technical and legal disparities lead to difficulties and higher costs in cross-border or interinstitutional access to film heritage. As these issues are common to all Member States, solutions at EU level could allow mass digitisation of European film heritage, and improve the process, thus reducing costs. Since 2000, the European Commission and the European Parliament, together with the Council, have supported moves to foster cooperation in this field. European funding is available to co-finance such efforts.

EU film heritage covers over 120 years of cinema history and its technological evolution. The recent digital shift has resulted in significant digitisation of film production and distribution chains. Consequently, films produced on other formats (for example, 35mm film or magnetic recording) can only be accessed if appropriate screening equipment is preserved and operational, or the material is digitised. This challenge has redefined the scope of the work and tasks performed by European film heritage institutions. These, mostly publicly funded, bodies have a mission to preserve European films and make them accessible. The process of film heritage digitisation comprises many stages, involving both technical and legal elements. The legal issues include copyright clearance, which enables authors, producers and other rights-holders to receive payment for use or exploitation of their work. Rights management systems vary considerably between EU Member States, as do the technical solutions applied for digitising, preserving and making such digital content accessible. These technical and legal disparities lead to difficulties and higher costs in cross-border or interinstitutional access to film heritage. As these issues are common to all Member States, solutions at EU level could allow mass digitisation of European film heritage, and improve the process, thus reducing costs. Since 2000, the European Commission and the European Parliament, together with the Council, have supported moves to foster cooperation in this field. European funding is available to co-finance such efforts.