Digital copies are posing problems in all sorts of areas, as we all know. The government's review of copyright, conducted by Andrew Gowers, recommended that because private copying of music is so rife it would be better to amend the law to allow private copying rather than to continue to watch the existing law being flouted. The music industry has been the one facing the consequences of piratical copying up till now, and its response has been, eventually, to make legitimate digital supply easier and cheaper, and apparently the policy is working. The film industry has yet to adapt in the same way.
Self-service fair dealing copying in archives is entirely legitimate, though the record offices must protect themselves by giving clear advice to users on what the limits of fair dealing are. Fair dealing certainly does not allow a user to post his or her digital copies on the internet, so if the records are protected by copyright it is an infringement for a user to do that. Some users will wish to obey the law, while others, especially once they have gone overseas and are out of the jurisdiction of the UK courts, will not care. Unfortunately, if the mighty music industry has failed to prevent infringing activity there is no prospect of archivists being able to do so. The music industry solution has been to offer better legitimate services than are available illegitimately. Users find that it is worth paying a small amount to get the better service. If archives wish to minimise the damage caused by the posting of bootleg copies they need to follow the same course: offer better legitimate services.
However, I recognise that this is a copyright-centric view, which takes no account of the practical and financial obstacles.
Information Policy Consultant
Information Policy and Services Directorate
The National Archives
Surrey TW9 4DU
Tel +44 (0)20 8392 5381
Fax +44 (0)20 8487 9219
From: Archivists, conservators and records managers.
[mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of Aidan Jones
Sent: 13 June 2008 08:56
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Self service photography from microfilm
From: Archivists, conservators and records managers.
On Behalf Of Bruce Jackson
Sent: 12 June 2008 17:00
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Self service photography from microfilm>>
<<At Lancashire, when we piloted self-service digital photography, we
decidede then not to allow readers to take "screen shots" with their own
cameras from the readers. However, we are now being asked by readers to
allow this, claiming that they can get good quality results which they can
manipulate yto allow them to read the image more easily than they can on
the reader ... We can see no obvious legal or conservation reason to
maintain our current position ( except possibly on microfilms of records
held elsewhere) and, I would appreciate the views of other supporting either
point of view.>>
<<----- Original Message -----
From: "Shawcross Kath" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, June 12, 2008 6:40 PM
Subject: Re: Self service photography from microfilm>>
<<We've only had one person ask to photograph microfiched which I allowed at
no charge. We don't charge for readers photographing archives either ... I
think one argument against this has nothing to do with copyright/ownership
but my management and definitely members saying I should be making money off
When first asked, I was initially a bit sceptical as to whether satisfactory
digital photos could ever be taken from a microfilm reader. However, when I
tried it myself experimentally, the results certainly seemed to be
reasonably OK - at least once the flash had been turned off to prevent
Kath refers to the possible loss of revenue (presumably to recoup the
investment in microform readers - amongst other things). To take her final
point a stage further, I expect that sooner of later it will become very
difficult - or virtually impossible - to prevent many such digital images
being posted on the Internet. So long as they are reasonably legible, the
images won't necessarily need to be of the highest quality. There are
doubtless many people who are either ignorant of any issues of copyright
(and even less of any undertakings given by record offices to depositors),
or they are largely indifferent to them. Quite commonly, there are reports
of writers and photographers who have discovered their work posted
without acknowledgment on websites on the other side of the world - often
with somebody else's copyright stamp having been added. Many musicians and
recording artistes protest about the amount of their work which is being
illegally copied or downloaded, but their success in preventing it is quite
limited. Are other organisations really likely to be significantly more
Already, I've noticed the suggestion being posed on one international
genealogical discussion group: "I frequently see digital cameras being used
in record offices. Most of us have them nowadays. Why are they not being
used on parish registers? Would it be too expensive to use them for this
purpose, and put the resultant images on the web?"
Of course, it's not just a question of income from reader-printers. If the
amount of privately-posted images grows substantially, it wouldn't much help
those offices which already sell images on microform, or who (like the
National Archives, and like Greater London http://tinyurl.com/68m2gu)
have their own ambitious plans for use of digitisation and Internet
expansion. Pirate copies (if that is the right term) wouldn't necessarily
all need to be on one large site. A substantial number of images posted on
a lot of smaller sites - doubtless with their own internal systems of
links - could produce much the same effect.
The question which seems to be increasingly widespread amongst potential
users in certain quarters is not so much "what are you doing to make it
easier for us to visit your searchroom", but rather "what are you doing
about getting your most popular sources onto the Internet - so that we don't
ever need to visit your searchroom?" Maybe there are a few offices who
would not be particularly worried about falling numbers coming through their
doors. But for others, such a trend could ultimately lead to many
difficulties. Digitisation may seem very attractive to many users in the
short term. Looking to the longer term, it could lead (at least sometimes)
to increasing difficulty in getting the necessary resources for making
available those records of less immediate appeal. That could be particularly
true if the office was receiving less income due to the quantity of
competing images otherwise available on free sites. And smaller services
would quite likely have fewer resources for campaigning against any such
losses of income.
So what should be done? A whole reel of film could presumably be copied
within a few minutes. Ban large-scale digital photography? Such a move
might be presented as trying to protect services for the longer term. But
any ban would generally become harder to sustain if not paralleled
elsewhere. Well, like Bruce Jackson, I'm not offering any instant judgments.
With regard to allowing images from microfilm, Bruce has invited comments on
either side - that's fair enough. But it seems to me that the issue of what
subsequently happens to those images is extremely closely interlinked, and
that once the initial question has been raised, the whole debate then needs
to be widened.
I too would appreciate the views of others - supporting either point of
This email has been scanned by the MessageLabs Email Security System.
For more information please visit http://www.messagelabs.com/email
Please don't print this e-mail unless you really need to.
National Archives Disclaimer
This email message (and attachments) may contain information that is confidential to The National Archives. If you are not the intended recipient you cannot use, distribute or copy the message or attachments. In such a case, please notify the sender by return email immediately and erase all copies of the message and attachments. Opinions, conclusions and other information in this message and attachments that do not relate to the official business of The National Archives are neither given nor endorsed by it.