Since it first began to digitise items from its collections during the 1990s, the National Library of Wales has embraced digital technologies as a means of widening access to readers beyond the four walls of its iconic building in Aberystwyth. Facilitating access to its collections in this way has been a key strategic aim for the Library for many years, underpinned by the Theatre of Memory, a long-term vision of providing digital access to everything ever published in or about Wales. In the last ten years, significant strides towards realising this vision have been made by delivering the large-scale digitisation projects Welsh Journals Online (https://journals.library.wales/) and Welsh Newspapers Online (http://newspapers.library.wales/), and allowing access to collections in a range of other formats – including photographs, artworks, maps, manuscripts and archives – through the Library's core digitisation programme and other projects.
The National Library of Wales from the outset committed to the principle of providing digital services that are free at the point of access. With the opportunities that digital technologies offer for reproduction, distribution and repurposing as well as viewing, the discussion inevitably led to questions of reuse. In 2009 the Library was among the first cultural organisations in the UK to share items from its collection on Flickr Commons (www.flickr.com/photos/llgc/), permitting their free and unrestricted use. In 2010, thousands of images were published on the Welsh Government's People's Collection Wales website (www.peoplescollection.wales/) under the Creative Archive Licence, similar to the CC BY-NC-SA licence. In 2012, the Library made its most important policy decision in relation to the digitisation and reuse of its collections to date by declaring that it would not claim ownership of copyright in digital reproductions per se. This new position of ‘what goes into the public domain would stay in the public domain’, as described by Europeana, would have far-reaching consequences for the way in which the National Library of Wales's digitised collections were accessed and reused.
Since forming its current policy on copyright in digital reproductions, the National Library of Wales has faced what may possibly be the most challenging time in its history. On 26 April 2013, World Intellectual Property Day, the Library published a press release announcing its new position on copyright in digital reproductions. The Library did indeed make the news that day, but not because of its new policy.