Digital treatment of African cultural heritage: Shifting landmarks and implications for copyright exceptions for archives in Nigeria
Chapter from the book: Palladino C. & Bodard G. 2023. Can’t Touch This: Digital Approaches to Materiality in Cultural Heritage.
Developments in information and communication technologies have shifted the management of archival materials from paper to digital. This digital environment has created expectations and possibilities in access to and preservation of archival materials and records. Several legal initiatives have been proposed to address the emerging roles of archival materials and archival institutions. From a copyright law perspective, statutory copyright exceptions tend to be the go-to approach for addressing the copyright issues facing archival and other memory institutions.
In this environment, there are conversations around the roles of archival and other memory institutions and how the copyright law construct could design limitations and exceptions enabling those institutions to carry out their roles. Within these conversations, there remains a general adherence to the classic landmark (i.e., guiding light) of these institutions’ role being to preserve, safeguard and provide access to materials as needed. This chapter argues that from the standpoint of implementing any agenda of mass digitization before or alongside the repatriation of cultural heritage materials, this landmark of preservation and access should be challenged. This chapter proposes a complementary landmark to guide policymakers in navigating the copyright limitations and exceptions landscape for archival and other memory institutions. Agency, along with restitution and the general practice of decolonization, becomes a more appropriate landmark in this chapter’s description of how at institutional level, national archival institutions and other memory institutions might want to proceed in undertaking their planning for repatriating, receiving and managing repatriated items. Furthermore, incorporating agency as a complementary landmark would ready these institutions for the forthcoming transition to specific copyright limitations and exceptions.