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goals and objectives

Non-profit Film Archives and commercial collections in Europe conserve vast and valuable holdings of moving images. These holdings are a treasure from the cultural standpoint because they represent the history, the diversity and the identity itself of European countries. They also have a significant economical and commercial value in the context of their re-use in broadcast, film, multimedia production and distribution. This added value is of strategic importance to the European media and Entertainment industry.

Unfortunately this vast heritage and assets are not easily accessible, and therefore they do not fulfil their potentials in cultural or commercial terms. This is mainly due to two factors:

  • On the one hand it is complex to locate the physical elements which constitute the European film heritage, the original copies, the best quality masters; the most complete versions of the works, because this patrimony is dispersed in hundreds of Archives and collections all over Europe. The vast majority of these collections and Archives do not offer access to their catalogues over Internet, and also when these are available, they cannot overcome the language barriers, making the research of a given image content a painstakingly complex and expensive process.
  • On the other hand, even when a given moving image document has been located, it is extremely complex to identify the owner of the rights, particularly when they are fragmented and dispersed in different countries of the Union.
    The MIDAS project aims at addressing these two issues by designing and setting up a pilot project of a “EU-wide federated database for film holdings” designed to facilitate the process of locating the documents, and to identify the related copyright holders. The rational of the MIDAS project is that it would be too complex, expensive and ultimately impossible to produce a new, unified database of the holdings of Archives and collections dispersed in many EU countries.

Therefore, MIDAS proposes the creation of a common platform and web-based “gateway” allowing the search throughout a growing number of individual databases belonging to different archives and collections. While remaining separate and independent, thus maintaining their specificities, original design and functionalities, the different databases would be federated around a common core of standardised descriptive elements, and specific user interfaces to overcome the language barrier, so that they could be searchable through a one and only “search and retrieval gateway”, valid for all the federated databases. The same gateway would also provide direct links to the websites of each individual Archive and collection contributing their information, as well as contact to facilitate the access to the content, for either cultural, research of commercial purposes.

The MIDAS project aims at demonstrating the feasibility of this concept by launching such a gateway. For the purpose and the aims of the project, a selected number of archives, commercial collections and copyright information will be made available. After the launch of the gateway and its federated database, all EU Archives, collections, and copyright owners will be strongly encouraged to contribute their information and descriptive metadata to the federated database, which is expected to grow exponentially after the completion of the project.

The MIDAS project will perform an aggressive campaign to facilitate and encourage the broadening of the number of participating archives, collections, copyright owners, via a careful plan aimed at disseminating information and a precise analysis of the results of the pilot phase.

Against the background of extremely time-wasting search procedures for copyrights, availability checks and content descriptions the MIDAS database will provide an easy access without further costs. This guarantees the high acceptance and the success within the professional community.

In parallel with these activities, the MIDAS project aims at addressing the issue of establishing, testing and validating one or more business models which could be applied for the further continuation of the project, and which could give significant information about the impact of this and similar initiatives in the European market. After the establishment of the technological infrastructure costs only occur for editorial work, hosting, licences and maintenance. It is expected that the whole process should be based on a critical mass of content therefore helping the establishment of coherent and sustainable procedures for “content owners” search, which would then favour a growing exposure and access of content to users’ interest.

Project objectives can be summarised in the following quantitative and qualitative terms:

Quantitative objectives:

  • archives (representing four countries and four languages) are directly involved in the pilot action
  • A total of 12 archives (7 more than the core group initiating the pilot project) are expected to join the system already during project implementation
  • About 1.000 works should be accessible through the system in the data-testing phase
  • At least 4.000 works should be accessible within project implementation
  • 2 different business models will be tested during the pilot project, with definition of a larger range of business scenarios to be carried out before the end of the project
  • Organisation of or attendance to 3 relevant events for the European Community of film archives

Qualitative objectives:

  • To study different, parallel technical solutions for the federated, cost-effective, interoperable database
  • To define and implement a common, standardised set of core descriptive elements, based on existing International standards, and based on the results of the relevant CEN standardisation group.
  • Multilingual requirements are addressed, with the provision of multilingual search interfaces and the definition of minimum descriptive elements for translation
  • To ensure the interoperability of different standards as they are used and applied in the different federated databases
  • To study and define business plan scenarios, including relations to the content owners, to be tested in different archives (e.g. by selling information about films to professionals on a subscription base and/or by charging annual publication fees from the copyright owners)
  • To provide orientations to the Archives on ways and procedures for rights’ owners search and negotiation
  • To increase awareness in the field about the potentiality and the effectiveness of a federated database throughout archives and collections in the EU
  • To significantly improve accessibility to, and commercial re-use of archival collections in the EU.
  • To improve efficiency and effectiveness in the access and distribution activities of the participating archives and collections
  • To encourage the growth of the federated database during and after the duration of the project.

As a longer term vision, it is expected that MIDAS should play a major role in federating, within the three years after completion of the project, at least the 80% of European public film archives for collections of which they own the rights, or that are public domain. As a second layer, the MIDAS system should also encourage the entry of private film archives, thus favouring the overall accessibility of a significant part of European film heritage.

The MIDAS project is part of the Media Plus programme of the European Union and contributes to the specific objectives of the Networked Databases priority in the Pilot Project scheme.