In our digital project workflow, we first evaluate copyright concerns for the submitted project proposal. Even if the collection contains historically important items to be digitized and preserved, we cannot approve the project if there are copyright restrictions or issues. This post will briefly summarize what you need to know about copyright and digitization. For more detailed information about copyright, please visit Copyright at UBC (Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office).
What is Copyright? Why do we have to care about it in digitization projects?
According to Copyright at UBC, “Copyright is the sole and exclusive right of a copyright owner to produce, reproduce, perform, publish, adapt, translate and telecommunicate a work, and to control the circumstances in which others may do any of these things. Copyright owners grant permission to others through what are legally referred to as licenses.” In the digitization context, we need to ensure the item is in the public domain or we obtain permission in order (1) to make digital copies of the items and (2) to disseminate them[i]. Making digital copies can be considered as “reproducing” the original items, and disseminating as “publishing”.
Our Digital Collection Development Policy of the UBC Library defines the collection review criteria and questions for rights issues as follows:
- Does the Library hold copyright for the material to be digitized?
- Does the Library have written documentation from the rights owner allowing it to hold a digital copy of the material?
- Does the Library require any other permission prior to embarking on the project?
As we state in our Project Planning Toolkit, the answers to any of the following questions should be “yes” when digitizing an item and publishing it in Open Collections:
- Is the material in the public domain?
- Does UBC hold the copyright to the material?
- Will the copyright holder give permission to digitize the material?
The following collections are examples of how we have dealt with copyright:
Public Domain: Western Manuscripts and Early Printed Books
The original items in the Western Manuscripts and Early Printed Books were published between 1245 and 1680. All of the items are out of copyright, and UBC owns the materials in their entirety. Therefore, it could be digitized without worrying about copyright infringement.
Permission from Copyright holder: BC Sessional Papers[ii]
The items in the BC Sessional Papers collection are protected under parliamentary privilege, which applies to the materials printed by the Legislative Library of British Columbia (LLBC). Parliamentary privilege extended to printed parliamentary publications does not expire. In other words, intellectual property rights are held in perpetuity by Parliament.
In order to make the digital copies of the Sessional Papers and upload to Open Collections, we consulted with the Legislative Assembly Law Clerk and other copyright experts. Both parties signed a non-exclusive digitization and distribution agreement (Legislative Assembly of British Columbia and the University of British Columbia Library Digital Initiatives). By this agreement, the UBC Library has right to preserve and disseminate the Sessional Paper, and add the digitized materials to the UBC Library collections.
If interested in completing a project with us, please consider copyright issues prior to submitting a proposal.
[i] Gertz, J. (2007) 6.6 Preservation and selection for digitization. Northeast Document Center. Available at https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/6.-reformatting/6.6-preservation-and-selection-for-digitization Cited in Balogun, T. (2018). The nexus between digitization, preservation and access in the context of selection of materials for archives. Library Philosophy and Practice (e-journal), 1893. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac/1893
[ii] Carr-Harris, M., Curry, G., Graebner, C., Paterson, S., & Rollins, C. (2011). British Columbia Government Publications Digitization Project: Proof of Concept. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b009/ade13b914c3ead37564ead628382b05b78fd.pdf