Copyright and Digitisation

On Tuesday, Victoria Stobo and Kerry Patterson of CREATe (the RCUK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy based at the University of Glasgow) hosted informal copyright training at the SJAC. Kerry related a little about a project she had been working on, which explores the application of rights clearance and copyright legislation to the digitisation of the Scrapbooks of the poet Edwin Morgan (1930-60s). She was accompanied by Postgraduate Researcher Victoria – her PhD uses surveys and case studies to understand how copyright affects digitisation. Both ably, thoughtfully and comprehensively answered the many tricky questions posed to them by the director, volunteers and project staff.

First they explained the fundamentals – copyright occurs at the point when an original work is created. Most unpublished archival materials are in copyright until 2039, and for many materials copyright endures for the life of the creator plus seventy years. Orphan works – materials created by an untraceable or unidentifiable rights holder – could be make available, provided it could be demonstrated that prior diligent search had been fruitlessly performed. The Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO) website contains comprehensive guidelines on how to search, and facilitates the registration of orphan works. The focus was very much upon addressing the practicalities of digitising, publishing and displaying archival materials, identifying and minimising risk.
The extent to which oral history transcripts could be reproduced, digitised or published if the interviewee was deceased was assessed. It was concluded that heirs should be consulted for permission, even though the signing of a consent form by the participant might arguably be understood to constitute an implied licence. Other issues discussed included conventions for the crediting of images supplied to the researcher by the Centre, whether the rights of photographs taken by a freelancer and published in a newspaper belong to the individual or the publication, the copyright of the paperwork created by now defunct organisations.

Striking a balance between mitigating risk and enhancing accessibility, in the final analysis, were considered to be key to successful digitisation. Much, of course, depends upon the extent to which the organisation is risk averse. Following the session, Victoria and Kerry were treated to a tour of the Centre.

Undoubtedly many more questions will arise once the process of digitisation begins in earnest in January 2017. In the meantime, I for one left reassured that workable solutions to the potential pitfalls digitisation were available.

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