Introducing Copyright for Archivists Workshops... and a short survey

The Dome at New Register House

The Dome at New Register House

I recently helped my PhD supervisor, Ronan Deazley, deliver copyright training workshops with the Scottish Council on Archives (SCA). “Introducing Copyright for Archivists” ran twice, first in Edinburgh, in The Dome at New Register House, National Records of Scotland on 30th May, and then at the AK Bell Library in Perth on 10th June. Workshop materials, including slides and a specially produced guidance note, are available on the SCA website. The day consisted of four sessions, covering: basic concepts; authorship and ownership; exceptions; and digitisation and risk.

The first session covered basic concepts of copyright, including the protection criteria of fixation, originality and qualification; the global nature of the copyright regime, and the eight categories of work protected, illustrated with examples. In the second session, we considered authorship and ownership from different perspectives; the definition of authorship according to each category of work; works of unknown authorship; joint authorship and joint ownership; and perhaps of most relevance to archive collections, works authored under contract or as a freelancer.

AK Bell Library in Perth

AK Bell Library in Perth

The third session examined the new exceptions which archives and libraries can rely on to make copies of works without infringing the exclusive rights of the copyright owner. Those specific to archivists include: s.40B (making works available through dedicated terminals); s.42 (replacement copies of works) and s.43 (single copies of unpublished works). The new regulations are available here. Crucially, each of these sessions also introduced the previous versions of UK copyright legislation (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, Copyright Act 1956 and Copyright Act 1911), which are essential in understanding what would be protected, for how long, and who would be considered the author or owner of copyright in a work, at different points in history. Understanding this is essential to tracing copyright in older works, something which archivists are called upon to do regularly!

Adopting a risk-managed approach to copyright clearance for digitisation was the focus of the fourth and final session of the day. This session is based on my PhD research (so far) and includes examples of rights clearance exercises from archive services in the USA (University of Michigan and Carolina Digital Library and Archives) and the UK, highlighting the differences between institutions who favour strict compliance with the law, and those who take a risk-managed approach to their digitisation projects. The Codebreakers project at the Wellcome Library is an example of an institution demonstrating a large capacity for risk. If you're interested in reading about the Wellcome experience in greater depth, a scoping study of Codebreakers is available here.

The fourth session also included a series of group exercises, looking at real (but with some details deliberately changed) archive digitisation projects from a series of perspectives: how to conduct a diligent search; how to mitigate risk on publication; and how to identify risk factors within collections. There was a tremendous reaction to the group exercises with lots of useful discussion, interesting approaches devised and valuable ideas shared. Look out for future posts on the scenarios for more details.

Also included in the day was a short survey which asked the participants to either agree or disagree with a series of statements about copyright and digitisation. The purpose of the survey is to help us develop base level knowledge of how archivists feel about copyright law, how it affects our work, and how confident we feel in our knowledge and understanding of the law.

The participants were also kind enough to take part in an evaluation survey of the workshop, which included the option to ask more questions about copyright, and to nominate topics for future workshops. Copyright is a huge topic to cover in one day, so we appreciate the pointers on what to cover next, and the extra questions on copyright will help to create a “Frequently Asked Questions about Copyright” resource for the archive sector (more on this here). I'll be discussing some of the outcomes of this survey, and the short copyright survey, in my next blog posts.

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