Veritiy Minniti authors the second blog of our copyright series giving her view of Copyright and the Core Training Course
Ever since childhood, I have been fascinated by history. History seemed to be populated with so many intriguing characters, exciting events, discoveries and bizarre goings-on. As a child, I was an avid reader of books such as Horrible Histories and from the moment I heard about universities, I knew I wanted to study History. Happily I did, indeed, study History at university and subsequently, the logical progression for me was to pursue a career in Archives. I wanted, not only to work with history but also to help preserve it and protect society’s ‘memory’ of itself and past events. I was lucky enough to become a part-time Archives Assistant at the University of Hull Archives, based at the Hull History Centre, almost straight from university and then after settling into the post, I applied to do an MA in Archive Administration at Aberystwyth University via distance learning.
As an Archives Assistant, I regularly deal with copyright issues, although I’m not involved in decisions regarding the Archives’ policy on copyright. Many individuals visit the archives with the intention of publishing copies of manuscripts or photographs from our collections. Most of the items requested are out of copyright or are our own copyright, however sometimes the situation can be a little trickier! Usually, when faced with a difficult copyright issue, customers are able to consult with a qualified archivist. However, when this has not been immediately possible, I have felt a little ill-equipped, at times, to provide more substantial advice. Consequently, when the opportunity arose to attend the Archives and Records Association’s (ARA) Copyright Core Training event, I leapt at the chance to improve my own knowledge as well as my ability to help any future customers with queries regarding copyright.
My MA has provided me with a grounding in common copyright issues relating to libraries and archives, but the ARA Copyright Training has given me much greater confidence when dealing with this very complex issue. I was particularly pleased that Tim Padfield, the author of ‘the bible’ on copyright for archivists: Copyright for Archivists and Users of Archives, was going to be giving a talk. Having become aware of Tim Padfield’s prominence in the area of copyright for archivists during my general studies, I was excited to hear from such an authority and was not disappointed. During his hour and a half presentation, he managed to cover all the basics and particularly focused on copyright issues for archivists and librarians in terms of enabling access to materials and producing copies on request. Two of the key things I learnt were:
- that if a user states his wish to publish items from the archives, archivists should not make any copies until satisfied that permission from the copyright holder has been obtained
- that volunteers and students are not regarded as employees and, therefore, anything they produce for the library/archive is automatically their own copyright. Consequently, volunteer agreements need to include a clause regarding the transfer of their individual copyright, on any items of work they complete, to the library/archive.
It was also very interesting to hear Alison Kay from the National Railway Museum regarding their forthcoming exhibition on ambulance trains and their experience of gaining permission from copyright holders to reproduce specific items. Ultimately, I hope to qualify as an archivist and become involved in the planning and presentation of outreach and education activities as well as exhibitions, and Alison’s experiences made it clear that, unfortunately, the copyright issues surrounding the reproduction of items for such events is not always clear cut. In some cases, copyright holders can be fairly easily traced but in other cases it can be a highly time-consuming process. For instance, certain non-published materials from the 19th century are still covered by copyright until 2039 and tracing the copyright holders today will involve following the author’s family tree and any wills made. In such cases, it is possible that the number of copyright holders could easily reach double figures and it only needs one of them to say no for you to be unable to use the item in question! It seems that in some cases, archives and libraries may be forced to decide between such time-consuming tasks, not using the material or taking the risk that no copyright holders will come forward and publish anyway.
With a set of useful and practical workshops to conclude the day, the training event provided me with exactly what I had hoped and needed in order to consolidate my knowledge regarding copyright. Obviously, there is much more to copyright than can be learned in one day (the various editions of Tim Padfield’s book on the topic attest to this), but it has enabled me to see copyright more clearly and not feel overwhelmed. Now I know I can understand the complex rules surrounding copyright, I know I will be of much more help to our customers at the Hull History Centre. And the rule I live by now: if in doubt, consult Tim Padfield’s extremely useful flowcharts on how to work out copyright dates! The charts can be found online here: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/information-management/copyright-related-rights.pdf