Symposium Examines Why Putting Archival Material Online Is Often a Lot Easier Said Than Done
A host of legal issues involving copyright, defamation, privacy and tort liability can derail attempts to make archives more accessible.
New York, April 26, 2010—The Internet has made it easier for institutions, universities, and libraries to open up the vast trove of works contained in their archives.
- Defamation--if a library, for example, put an exchange of letters on a website that was defamatory, that could potentially turn the library into a publisher and expose it to liability.
- Invasion of Privacy—a donor might provide journals to a university archive and give up all rights. But if that journal contains intimate details about somebody else, the university could be subject to a lawsuit from that party, particularly if the archive is made available to readers in foreign countries with greater protection for personal information.
- Copyright—a copyright is fixed at the creation of a work and remains in effect for the author’s lifetime plus 70 years, so much archival material is still protected by copyright. Making copyrighted material publicly available online implicates copyright rights, and in many cases, the right holders for those materials cannot be located.
- Contracts—do donor agreements contemplate digital use? Does any agreement even exist? Meyers said until the 1970s, most donations were done more or less on a handshake basis and not formalized in writing.