Europe has lost 80% of its silent films collection – could sharing them with Wikimedia be a possible answer?

Some 80 percent of European silent films are estimated to have been lost, and, due to legal challenges, even modern digital technology may not be sufficient to prevent something similar happening to other other types of film, the European Commission has warned in a new report. Only Latvia and Denmark have so far developed film digitisation strategies covering the whole national heritage. Hungary has decided to digitise only a hundred of its movies. Less then a third of member states currently collect digital material in the way they do analogue material, the report shows. All early films by Fritz Lang, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau or Georg Wilhelm Pabst are believed to be lost, along with hundreds of others from the end of the 19th century. According to the commission, the problem with rescuing the films lies in the lack of a new approach to preserving ageing movie tapes. Conservation of old film in sealed boxes cannot guarantee preservation for future generations. In the digital age, a new access model is needed, the commission says. However, questions about how to store and preserve digital material remain unanswered. Beyond the technological issues, legal difficulties also constrain the effective use of and access to old films. There are several different regimes under which EU member states collect, preserve, restore and share their national film collections. Simple administrative costs and the time needed to clear the rights often prevent the institutions from providing access to archive material. Some member states would welcome EU intervention on the question of copyright, the report from the commission says.

http://euobserver.com/9/30440

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