Sunday, 29 September 2013

UK Archives and copyright - flagging up the problems

I've just been reading an interesting piece by Paul Gibbons, a Freedom of Information practitioner in the UK, about the issue of copyright and the overly cautious approach of the British archive sector in crossing all the t's and dotting all the i's in getting permissions from those whose works are in copyright, and even their descendants, before digitising material. It follows a symposium held by the Wellcome Trust entitled Archives and Copyright: Developing an Agenda for Reform, held on the 27th September in London.

The article interestingly compares the American approach to that of the British. Paul's conclusion is "I left the symposium feeling that copyright is getting in the way of archivists wanting to do great things to widen the relevance of their collections. That can’t be what copyright is designed to do, and it does seem that this is one example where unintended consequences of the law are undermining its good intentions."

It's an interesting piece, well worth a read at


My latest book, Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records, is now available from (print) and (ebook), whilst Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet is available at My next Pharos Scottish course, Scotland 1750-1850: Beyond the OPRs, starts Nov 13th - see

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