Where in the World Must Films Be Preserved?

While countries commonly require that books be deposited in a national library, upon publication, that appears not to be the case with films and other audiovisual publications.


Eksteriør, Nasjonalbiblitoeket i Oslo

Since 1990, in Norway, the Act relating to The Legal Deposit of Generally Available Documents, has required that all new sound recordings, films and video recordings, radio and TV broadcasts, computer games, and websites be deposited at The National Library of Norway. The law has had over 75-percent compliance, to date.

To get some sense of just how common such requirements are, and where, is the goal of a new project just announced on World Day for Audiovisual Heritage 2016 (Thursday 27 October).

The Audiovisual and Multimedia Section of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and National Archives Section of the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) used the occasion to launch an ambitious survey of audiovisual-deposit laws around the world.

The two organizations’ rationale is simple: Little information is currently available on the state of legal deposit for audiovisual materials, from country to country.

At least initially, the survey will not aim to provide comprehensive details, but will instead provide a sense of the existence or absence of laws about safeguarding films and other moving-image creations. Organizers say they hope that the database will help archivists in countries without such laws to lobby for their adoption.

The project’s organizers have a larger, global goal, too: “Our audiovisual heritage needs to be preserved in order to provide universal access to information,” explain Richard Ranft, who heads the National Archives Section of the IASA, and Trond Valberg, who heads the Audiovisual and Multimedia Section of IFLA.

They are asking archivists to complete a short questionnaire about existing regulations, or lack of them, and will use the input to create an AV Legal Deposit register. The register will be posted online, as a permanent, updated, country-by-country reference resource. It will provide information about laws regarding deposit to archives of audiovisual materials — any moving images, whether film, video, or TV — and sound materials, whether published, unpublished, or broadcast. It will not include information about storage deposits of photographs.

Ranft, Valberg, and their colleagues are now distributing the survey to colleagues around the world, asking, for example, whether countries have legal-deposit legislation for audiovisual materials, or are developing regulations; what is covered, including not only the obvious audiovisual media but also newer ones like computer games and internet-based content; who hosts archives; when laws went into force; and what percentage of required audiovisual material is actually deposited, in each country.


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