Several people asked for a summary on the question of deposits made without
any traceable legal agreements.
It is clear that in general care and even conservation of collections does
not transfer ownership of the property.
(Copyright of the documents can never be transferred since it is incorporeal
and would have to be assigned by the owners. )
If the owner of the property (not the copyright) has died in testate it may
be possible to have the goods declared bona vacantia (contact the Treasury
Solicitor). To try to establish ownership if this is not the case, wills,
trust deeds and administration letters should be studied. The best news
however, comes from Tim Padfield who stated that according to 1980 Statute
of Limitations no claims on wills can be made after 12 years. The fact that
archives have possession gives them de facto beneficial ownership, not
absolute title but as good as since no-one should be able to reclaim the
material. To guard against the reoccurrence of this problem in the future
archivists should encourage donors to use the word 'gift' in any legal
agreement and steer clear of 'permanent deposits'.
Institute of Psychoanalysis
112A Shirland Road
London W9 2EQ
tel 0207 563 5010
fax 0207 563 5001
email: [log in to unmask]