Archives and Copyright: Digital proceedings available

ARA-supported research shared

Photograph shows Christy Henshaw's 'black hole' presentation.

Complete digital proceedings from the Archives and Copyright: Developing an Agenda for Reform symposium held at the Wellcome Trust on 27 September 2013, are now available online at

The web resource offers short videos of the presentations at the Symposium, interactive transcripts, an introductory essay and a bibliography, as well as other project-related outputs. The organisers hope the interactive transcript of the event will provide a forum for further discussion within the archive sector, as changes to copyright exceptions for libraries and archives take effect, and as the IPO consults on schemes and exceptions to tackle the Orphan Works problem. The Archives and Copyright site will continue to be updated with commentary and preliminary research findings during the PhD study, “Archives, Digitisation and Copyright,” taking place at University of Glasgow.

Also of interest to the sector is the recently published report which examines the merits of, and problems encountered by, taking a risk-managed approach to rights clearance when digitising archive collections. The report draws upon data collected at the Wellcome Library in relation to the Codebreakers: Makers of Modern Genetics project, as well as interviews with key Codebreakers project staff at the Wellcome and partner archives. The results of the rights clearance process are considered in relation to other cognate projects and studies; and the policies and processes developed by the Wellcome to manage the digitisation and clearance process, including their risk criteria and takedown policies, are explained and discussed. The report is available at:

Archives and Copyright: Developing an Agenda for Reform was organised around four panels followed by an open discussion with the audience. The first panel introduced the Wellcome Library Digitisation Programme and its pilot project, Codebreakers: Makers of Modern Genetics.  The second panel discussed the results from a six-month study of the Codebreakers initiative.

The focus of the third panel shifted to the current proposals for copyright reform within the UK as they affect the archive sector. Munn and Stout of the Intellectual Property Office addressed the proposed changes to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, with a response from Tim Padfield.  In the fourth and final panel the opportunity and scope for mass digitising archive material was considered from the perspective of US copyright law: the decision in Authors Guild v. Hathi Trust was discussed; and the panel considered and dismissed adhering to a policy of strict copyright compliance or hoping for archive-appropriate law reform as strategies that were unlikely to provide a meaningful solution to the challenge of digitising archive collections.

Archives and Copyright: Developing an Agenda for Reform was held at the Wellcome Trust on 27 September 2013. It was organised by Ronan Deazley and Victoria Stobo from University of Glasgow in collaboration with the Wellcome Library, and represents the culmination of an RCUK-funded research project concerned with the manner in which the copyright regime both enables and inhibits the work of heritage institutions, and in particular archives.

The Symposium and the production of the web resource have been generously supported by the Wellcome Trust, the Archives and Records Association UK & Ireland, the British and Irish Law Education and Technology Association (BILETA), and CREATe, the RCUK-funded Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy.