Posted by: bluesyemre | November 28, 2014

Libraries show empty displays in protest against copyright law

Empty display case

  • Libraries and museums across the UK show their anger at extended restrictions on public release of documents. “Don’t sorrow for me … I shall have died happily,” wrote Lieutenant Colonel Robert Dunlop Smith. ”One can’t die better than in doing one’s duty. You may be sure that I shall be thinking of you all at the last …” But the display case at the National Library of Scotland which should contain Dunlop Smith’s letter is empty. The Lieutenant Colonel was killed in action in 1917, but the letter he wrote to his father to be opened on the occasion of his death was never published, and remains restricted under copyright until 2039. The empty case is on show as part of a quiet but potent rebellion from libraries and museums across the country, who are showing their anger at copyright laws preventing them from displaying unpublished letters and diaries from the first world war, a law which they say “limits and distorts the telling and understanding of our shared history”. Visitors to the Imperial War Museum in London, to the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh and to the University of Leeds have been brought up short by cases containing nothing but a note: “We would have liked to show you a letter from a first world war soldier here. But due to current copyright laws we are unable to display the original. Those laws mean that some of the most powerful diaries and letters in our collections cannot be displayed.”


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