Archives and Copyright: Risk and Reform

Ronan Deazley, Victoria Stobo

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This paper considers the place of the archive sector within the copyright regime, and how copyright impacts upon the preservation, access to, and use of archival holdings. It begins with a critical assessment of the current parameters of the UK copyright regime as it applies to the work of archivists, including recommendations for reform that have followed in the wake of the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property (2006-2010), the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth (2010-2011), the Consultation on Copyright (2011-12), as well as the government’s response thereto: Modernising Copyright (2012). It considers the various problems the copyright regime presents for archives undertaking mass digitisation projects as well as recent European and UK initiatives in this domain. It argues that the UK copyright regime, even when read in conjunction with current national and regional recommendations for reform, falls short of delivering a legal framework that would enable archivists to realise the full potential that comprehensive, universal online access to the country’s archival holdings would contribute to local and national democracy and accountability, to education, learning, and culture, and to the sense of identity and place for local people, communities and organisations. Ultimately, a case is made for the differential treatment of archives within the copyright regime – different, that is, from libraries and other related institutions operating within the cultural sector. The paper concludes with a policy recommendation that would greatly enhance the ability of archives to provide online access to their holdings, while at the same time safeguarding the economic interests of the authors and owners of copyright-protected work.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages55
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2013

Publication series

NameCREATe Working Paper Series


  • archives
  • copyright
  • copyright exceptions
  • copyright policy


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