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Digitisation, Contract Negotiation, Rights Management and You


Copyright negotiation header image
If the ultimate aim of your cultural heritage digitisation project is to make the digitised records and images in your collection accessible online, then rights management is likely a key consideration.

This is because you may not necessarily own all the rights for the items in your collections, even if you legally own them and/or they have been deposited with your institution.

For example, the copyright in any letters which may form part of your archive will normally belong to the author of the letter, rather than the recipient. Similarly, collections of papers you have been gifted may include a diverse range of items, created by different people.

Even if the owner of these letters transferred copyright to your organisation when the items were deposited with you, they would only have been able to assign copyright in the items they created and/or they have legal title to, such as those that were created by a family member etc.

Copyright negotiation tips for digitised collections

For items and records for which your institution doesn’t own copyright, negotiating agreements with rights holders for using digitised images online will therefore be a central feature of your digitisation project if the ultimate aim is online access to the collections. This means that basic contract literacy will be central to the rights management strand of your project.

Of course, a detailed understanding of contracts and contract law is not an essential requirement for sensible use of contracts. But common sense, strength in your convictions, and confidence to secure the best deal for your organisation – will put you in good stead. Certainly, a clear negotiating strategy is likely to save you time, money and give you the best chance of a good outcome.

Below I’ve included some important negotiation tips you might consider:

Of course, sometimes rights negotiation will not go to plan even if you do take heed of the suggestions above. In these cases, time is of the essence, because if rights are too expensive to use or are taking too much time to negotiate, leaving enough time in the project will provide you with a possible buffer to select other possible work to include instead.

About Naomi Korn

Naomi Korn is founder and lead consultant at Naomi Korn Copyright Consultancy (NKCC) one of the UK’s leading management consultancies specialising in copyright, compliance and licensing.

The contents of this blog post can be shared and re-used under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike Licence

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