Greek Monastery Items End Up at the British Library

By Charlton, John | Information Today, June 2019 | Go to article overview

Greek Monastery Items End Up at the British Library


Charlton, John, Information Today


Historic documents from a Greek monastery that came into the possession of the British Library had to be returned after it became clear that they were most probably stolen. The three legal documents, two charters and an Ottoman Empire edict, were held at the monastery of Chrysopodaritissa in Greece's Peloponnese region and disappeared in the late 1970s.

"The charters were first offered as a donation to the British Library on 26 July 1984," says the library's media manager, Alice Carter, "along with a Turkish Firman [aka a royal decree]. Although the Library initially declined the offer, in July 1988 they were again offered as a donation. This time, after a careful investigation of the Greek charters, the department of manuscripts decided to accept the charters. The donation of the Firman was accepted subsequently."

Greece's Ministry of Culture and Sport asked the British Library to investigate the matter after the documents were reportedly seen at the library by a Greek monk. "Upon receiving the letter from the Greek Ministry of Culture [and Sport], we looked into our own records relating to these donations and asked the ministry to provide documentation that supported their concerns that the charters had been stolen," says Carter. The ministry "has now provided a police report relating to the theft of the items, dating from 1977."

She adds that based on this and other supporting evidence, the British Library believes the three items were stolen from the monastery. The library's board has the power to officially remove them and organize their return, in coordination with Greece's Ministry of Culture and Sport. Carter says the library is not currently dealing with any other requests for the return of items that may have been stolen: "We have strict policies and processes in place to ensure the legality of all items which we acquire, whether through purchase, donation or loan."

THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL IMPLEMENTS COPYRIGHT DIRECTIVE

The European Council--a powerful European Union (EU) institution comprising the heads of government from all EU member states--recently adopted the controversial Copyright Directive, which has been working its way through the EU for about 3 years. Its main aim is to bring EU copyright laws in line with the digital age.

The directive includes mandatory exceptions to copyright for text and data mining, online teaching, and the preservation and online dissemination of EU states' cultural heritage. A Euro The Peloponnese region in Greece pean Council press release says licensing practices will be introduced to ensure wider access to creative content. They will include allowing rights clearances for films shown by video-on-demand platforms. The directive will also give a new right to press publishers for the online use of their publications. Authors of works that are incorporated into press publications will be entitled to a share of the press publishers' revenues derived from this right.

The statement also says that in principle, online sharing platforms will have to obtain permission for copyrighted works uploaded by users unless some conditions are met. These will be open to negotiation with rightsholders. But users will be allowed to generate and upload content freely for purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody, and pastiche.

Not everyone is dancing in the boulevards though. Yanis Varoufakis, an academic, politician, and former Greek finance minister, posted his thoughts online. He says the directive "endangers the online freedom of us all" and that it "falls short of the imperative modernisation that our outdated intellectual property rights require." Member states have 2 years to incorporate the directive into their national laws.

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