Course:5: Access and Outreach
Lesson:Lesson 1: Good Reference and Access Practices


Copyright refers to the right to reproduce (or copy) material for publication or distribution. At the best of times, copyright law can be a complex and confusing subject, and currently, much of copyright law is undergoing changes brought on by the World Wide Web and other new technologies.

Copyright can be owned or held by individuals, corporations, or the public, depending on the nature and age of the items in question. The difficulty for archivists and users is in determining:

  • Who holds copyright
  • Whether they are alive or dead
  • If they have made arrangements for the transfer or maintenance of copyright

Never assume that your organization holds copyright, even if it owns the materials.
You need to find out from the donor who holds copyright and keep accurate records of copyright information. When acquiring records from donors, make sure copyright is addressed within the deed of gift or other transfer instrument.

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In your reference practices, make sure that it is clear in all policies, correspondence, and interactions with users that it is the researcherís responsibility to determine the copyright holder and to obtain clearance to publish copyrighted materials. If necessary, you can mark photocopies and photographic prints with a statement that they have been provided for research purposes only.

AASLH cannot advise on questions of possible copyright infringement or other related copyright issues. If you require legal advice, you should consult with a legal practitioner licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

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Accession record
Make sure copyright is address within the deed of gift or other transfer instrument.

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Stanford University Libraries has a Copyright and Fair Use website with explanations of and links to copyright law. Click here.