Memo December 2013


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in December 2013

Happy New Year.

Compendium expands

An initiative springs up in the middle of Europe, in Cologne, to be more exact, spreads on the continent reaching 42 countriesferments related undertakings in the Arab world, and then reaches distant corners of the globe. Early in December three national cultural policy profiles written along the Compendium template were launched in Hanoi. Stories like this cherish our European pride.

Having in mind the 28 federal states and 7 union territories one might expect 35 cultural policies in India; or else, none that matches indeed the coherent policies in many European countries. For a first walk into this jungle of a subcontinent the historical introduction is recommended.

“Cultural policy became a battleground of ideological clashes between the conservatives and the liberals.” The last paragraph of the introduction to the Korean profile will convince you that it is an analysis that you are reading and not state PR text.

Before the first page leads you to an opposite view about the Vietnamese country profile, you are advised to read the checklist of challenges to cultural industries.

Copyright headaches

Issues of copyright in the digital era were one of the themes that the jubilee gathering of Compendium authors discussed in Vienna. Andreas bemoaned the 19th century single author conception of the prevailing copyright legislation, while Philippe suggested that copyright laws should primarily be looked upon as a framework for licensing agreements.

The European Commission has launched a consultation about copyright regulation in Europe in the digital age. The majority of the 80 questions require a yes-no answer but there is space for expressing substantial opinion as well. The deadline is 5 February.

The 20th question relates to an issue that has intrigued BO. The following selection points at the absurdities in case of juvenile works of long aged authors, produced by the 70 year copyright ban. Is there any sense in shutting important works away from free use for longer than a century?


Piece of work

Year of publication

Year of author's death

Last year of protection

Length of protection in last year

Knut Hamsun





132 years

Maurice Maeterlinck

Pelléas and Mélisande




127 years

G.B. Shaw

Mrs. Warren's Profession




127 years

Pietro Mascagni

Cavalleria rusticana




125 years

Gerhart Hauptmann

The Weavers




124 years

Richard Strauss

Also sprach Zarathustra




123 years

H.G. Wells

The Time Machine




121 years

Theodor Dreiser

Sister Carrie




115 years

Franz Lehár

The Merry Widow




113 years

Monitoring digitisation

A European project has been monitoring the various aspects of digitising cultural heritage: the dimensions of the process, its costs, how are collections accessed etc. The first survey reached 1951 libraries, museums and other heritage organisations. (The east European countries had a proper share with 531 institutions.)

The institutions’ target is to digitise 57% of their stock on the average, and they reported to have achieved about 20% by 2012. There was little variation between types of institution regarding the target: film institutes are the most ambitious with 65%. The actual achievements, however, show greater differences: the participating art museums reported 42% of their collection being digitised while the average in national libraries was 4% only.

Next spring we shall see the results of the second survey.

Until not long ago France was the main driver behind Europeana. This is why its absence from Enumerata is a surprise. So it is, but positively, the high level of Czech activeness in the project, who don’t usually show such engagement in EU matters. Their institutions were particularly cooperative also in the thematic survey that went deep into details of digitising heritage.  

A propos Europeana, here is a benchmark to its 30 million items. What can be taken as its American equivalent has 5.4 million. The US figure is running on the homepage of the site, for the European data you need to click four times if you know the path from the homepage. You are invited to make other comparisons, too.

Commission cared about futures

With December 2013 many things come to an end at the European Union. We are wondering about the future of Futurium, a project that blended professionalism with amateur charm (at little cost). As in many other cases, Italians were the most active in this game; from our corners Romanians excelled.

The “digital futures” exercise went on for three years. Citizens could submit alternative future scenarios (over 200 were uploaded) and policy ideas or participate in polls. In these, and in the accompanying interviews, one finds little reference to culture.

And yet, the ultimate puzzle concludes that “the blurring boundaries between artist and audience will completely disappear”, and wonders how to “ensure reward and recognition in a world of co-creation” and whether “crowd-financing platforms for art initiatives can balance the roles in current artistic economies”. Furthermore: “Creativity and art practice will become increasingly fashionable – common activities in which everyone engages.” Nevertheless: “Will we need a European art wisdom network that nurtures authentic art?”

Should there be a follow up do not miss having your say. The future belongs to you, too.

Where is Hildesheim?

You may go and discover this German university town for yourself if you submit your proposal about a cultural policy research theme by 1 February for this year’s cultural policy conference in September. (Following the one held in July 2012.)