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ARCHIVES Home

ARCHIVES Home

ARCHIVES  July 2006, Week 4

ARCHIVES July 2006, Week 4

Subject:

Re: Digitization of microforms

From:

Peter Hirtle <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Peter Hirtle <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 26 Jul 2006 17:32:22 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (59 lines)

Jeremy's more detailed description of his proposed digitization 
problem helps a lot.  I see three possible issues: copyright, 
contract, and ethical/professional.

On copyright, Jeremy is right that private corporate records from 
1789-1869 would be in the public domain in the US.  While there has 
been no legal cases on microfilming, Bridgeman v. Corel would suggest 
that there is no copyright in the microfilm.  There  conceivably 
could be a compilation copyright in the order of the records (if the 
organizational principle was something other than just original or 
chronological order - if in other words the Dutch archivists had to 
figure out how to put this material together).  If there is no 
copyright in the ordering of the material, however, then copyright 
law should not prevent you from digitizing the material.  If you made 
it available on the Internet in the Netherlands, you do run the risk 
of being sued in the Netherlands for violating some element of Dutch 
copyright law.

I would worry much more about contractual problems.  I am going to 
assume that when the filming was done, you signed an agreement with 
the municipal archives in Amsterdam that stipulated how the 
microfilmed could be used and/or reproduced.  The terms of that 
agreement could come into play when digitizing.

On ethical/professional grounds, I would have trouble recommending 
that you digitize the film.  First, while I see nothing wrong with 
having copies in other repositories, I think you do a service to 
researchers when you also point out to them that the most complete 
and authentic archive is located somewhere else.  The Municipal 
Archives in Amsterdam may have acquired other material that belongs 
in the archive since the filming took place, or it may have 
determined that some of the material in the collection doesn't 
actually belong there but has a different provenance.  In short, I 
think that we do scholarship a favor when we digitize the best 
available copy - which are the originals in Amsterdam.  It is also a 
professional courtesy to respect the wishes of other repositories.

In short, I would only move ahead with this project if I had the 
consent (and possible partnership) of the repository that owned the 
originals.  But that is just me.

Peter


Peter B. Hirtle
[log in to unmask]

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