This guide aims to familiarise readers with Article 6 of the DSM Directive, which introduces a mandatory exception to copyright for preservation. The guide was authored by Stephen Wyber. It represents the views of IFLA and Communia on the implementation of that provision.

For a summary of this guide please see the TL;DR version of this guide:

TL;DR Article 6: Preservation of cultural heritage

What is at issue in Article 6?

🥜 In a nutshell

Article 6 requires Member States to introduce an exception to copyright and related rights in their national laws in order to allow cultural heritage institutions to take copies of works for preservation purposes.

This not only represents a step forwards in terms of the strength of the exception (rather than Member States being given the option of introducing an exception, this is now mandatory), but also ensures that libraries, archives and museums should not face any unnecessary restrictions on how they carry out this copying. Moreover, it makes it clear that it is legal to work across borders in order to carry out preservation, for example through networks or the sharing of equipment.

In the implementation process, it will nonetheless be necessary to ensure that cultural heritage institutions face minimal restrictions on the type of works that can be copied, for example as regards materials accessed via third party servers.

There are also opportunities to expand the exception to cover other internal uses by cultural heritage institutions, or the potential beneficiaries of the exception.

Some context

Current EU law (the InfoSoc Directive) gives Member States the option to introduce an exception allowing for ‘specific acts of reproduction made by publicly accessible libraries, educational establishments or museums, or by archives, which are not for direct or indirect economic or commercial advantage’.

In line with this, many countries do clearly include preservation copying among their exceptions to copyright (see a full list at, either explicitly in the form of a preservation exception, or as part of a broader exception for libraries and other cultural heritage institutions, similar to the text of EU law. However, it is still common for there to be implicit or explicit limits on the way in which copies are made, the formats of the original or new version, and on the number of copies made. These all serve to restrict the possibility to use digitisation – i.e. the creation of digital copies and their appropriate storage – to achieve the mission of cultural heritage institutions.

A further complication linked to digitisation is the fact that the equipment necessary for this is often expensive, and given levels of use, it does not necessarily make sense for each cultural heritage institution to have its own. In response, it is common to form partnerships or networks – including across borders – which allow for a more effective use of public money, as well as a better outcome (i.e. more works preserved for the future). Similarly, once a copy is made, it may also make sense to store copies in servers across a number of countries in order to minimise the risk of permanent loss.

However, any cross-border applications of exceptions and limitations have, in the past, been hampered by inconsistency between laws, and uncertainty as to their legality in general. The Directive therefore aims to address these points.

🛠 Breaking down Article 6

Let's have a look at the Article in detail:

Which purposes are covered by the exception?