Friday 26 April 2013

MAJOR NEWS - National Library of Wales waives digital copyright

The following is astonishing, and unbelievably good news, from Wales:

To celebrate World Intellectual Property Day (26 April) and to promote discussion of the role of intellectual property in encouraging innovation and creativity The National Library of Wales ( has announced a pioneering decision in relation to its digitised collections by declaring that it will no longer claim ownership of copyright in digital copies of items in its care.

For many years, the Library has been proactive in its use of digitisation and the Web as means of widening access to its collections. From Wales’s earliest manuscripts to countless volumes of nineteenth-century Welsh newspapers, the Library has digitised and published copies of some of its most valued collections for all to see on the Web, anywhere and anytime.

These include:
• The Black Book of Carmarthen (c.1250): one of the earliest surviving manuscripts written solely in the Welsh language.

• Yny lhyvyr Hwnn by John Price (1546), the first book to be printed in the Welsh language

• Thomas Taylor’s county atlas (1718), the first published atlas relating entirely to Wales.

• Welsh Newspapers Online the Library’s largest digitisation project to date

During the next few months, the Library will be implementing a policy that will enable the public to use thousands of images on its website without any restriction. Users of the website should be aware that many images will still be subject to third party rights that will need to be cleared before use, but the Library will not impose additional copyright restrictions unless it owns the copyright in the original work. High resolution versions of the images will still be available under licence through the Library’s Enquiries Service.

Sir Deian Hopkin, President of The National Library of Wales said:

‘This important decision has not been taken lightly, but is consistent with the open approach to digital technologies that we’ve adopted over the course of the last decade. It is not merely a decision based on our interpretation of copyright law; it is a statement about how we perceive our role as a National Library within a digital Wales. As far as we are aware, we are the only cultural institution within the UK which has made such a clear statement concerning the ownership and openness of its digital collections.’

Dafydd Tudur, Rights and Information Manager added:

‘This is a wonderful opportunity to share our collections with the people of Wales and the world. The public should be able to use as well as view the collections in our care, and the National Library should be seen as an enabler rather than a gatekeeper.’

This new approach has been welcomed by the Library’s users and has generated much interest within the cultural sector. This development will not only contribute towards raising awareness of the history of Wales and its people both within Wales and beyond, but also raise the profile of the National Library of Wales and reaffirms its status as one of the UK’s most ground-breaking and innovative cultural organisations.

COMMENT: Copyright was raised at the archives conference I have been attending over the last 2 days (I made the point that in addition to copyright, there is also the issue of Terms and Conditions on a site that can affect genealogists). On copyright though, never saw this one coming - Wales leads the way! :)

(With thanks to the Federation of Family History Societies and the NLW Press Office)


My new book, Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet, is now available from Pen and Sword. For my other genealogy books, please visit; whilst for my online Scottish based genealogy courses please visit the Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Ltd site.


  1. Wow! Happy Friday, indeed! This is surprising, and very welcome. Wonder if they'll influence other Libraries/Archives -? Thanks for sharing this news, Chris.