FRBR and the Cinematographic Works Standard


As has been observed by the IFLA FRBR review group, one area that has led to much discussion is the meaning of the group 1 entity expression1). This is also true for the working group preparing the CEN cinematographic works standard. Currently, there are two positions with respect to the expression entity:

  1. A cinematographic work is a cinematographic expression. A distinction between these is not meaningful.
  2. A cinematographic work can have multiple expressions and should be modelled accordingly.

This page will be used to elaborate both positions so that (hopefully) a judgement can be made.

Position statement 1

by Detlev Balzer

This position is based on the assumption that every cinematographic work is intrinsically bound to its cinematographic expression. Under this assumption, a distinction between work and expression will not be useful in clarifying which amount of variation an original work can undergo before it should be viewed as a new work.

While a cinematographic original work is always its own cinematographic expression (otherwise it could not be called cinematographic), the latter can also be a cinematographic expression of a non-cinematographic work (e.g. a novel, a drama, etc.). Thus, a new cinematographic expression should always imply a new work.

Some scenarios

Language versions

There is widespread agreement among film historians that “true” language versions should be distinguished from versions created by dubbing or subtitling. A “true” language version is characterized by differences that do not only affect the sound track, but also the artistic content. This is mostly exemplified by differences in cast between the versions. These kinds of versions are almost unanimously viewed as separate works.

Dubbing and subtitling

A dubbed version of a cinematographic work is not intended to alter the artistic content. The process of dubbing or subtitling simply adds an aid for a particular audience so that it can better understand the original audible content.

While some dubbing voices are recognized as creative acts in their own right, their purpose is still strictly secondary to the original work. While this can also be said of translations of books, a dubbed version of a film is not a replacement of the original expression as in the case of a translated text. In fact, since the advent of digital distribution formats, dubbed versions of films typically retain the soundtrack in the original language. Thus, in the majority of cases, the dubbing track is nothing more than an add-on to the (unaltered) original expression.


Aggregates of cinematographic works can occur on the work, manifestation, and item level. Work-level aggregates include episode films, newsreels, TV magazines, etc. Manifestation-level aggregates have become common with digital distribution media such as DVD. Item-level aggregates can be found in film archives, where reels comprising more than one work (e.g. the main film plus advertising, trailers, etc.) are sometimes kept for maintaining the archival context.

The wider context

A distinction between work and expression can also be meaningless in other contexts, e.g. photography. The photograph as a work is always a photographic expression. It can be rendered on different media, in different sizes and resolutions, etc., without becoming a new expression. The same argument holds for original audio recordings, e.g. of natural phenomena such as animal voices.

These examples show that there are certain art forms in which a distinction between work and expression is not meaningful. Cinematography is one of these.

frbr_and_the_cws.txt · Last modified: 2008/04/21 10:02 (external edit)
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