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21 January 2020

Museum Volunteers and Copyright

By Naomi Korn

copyright health check

Museums rely on volunteers and their help. However, the copyright in any content that volunteers create on behalf of the museum will not belong to the museum, which will restrict enormously a museum’s ability to reuse such content.

Ideally museums who work with volunteers should seek a transfer of copyright to the museum via a deed of copyright assignment, which is an appropriate device to prevent a possible employee/employer relationship. Like any assignment of copyright, this will not be possible unless the museum is a legally incorporated body, such as a charitable trust. Museums which are unincorporated and run by volunteer and/or trustees, will need to discuss a mechanism whereby they grant each other permissions to reproduce any content that is created, or consider perhaps appointing a third party who can hold any copyright for them on their behalf. This is one of many issues that museums may face in terms of their relationship between volunteers and copyright.

We are delighted to be working with Museum Development Yorkshire to provide specialist advice in the field of Museums, Volunteers and Legal Compliance issues such as copyright.

We will be developing advice documents to compliment the suite of Intellectual Property Rights advice sheets already held on the Museums Development Yorkshire website. We will be collating museum questions regarding volunteers and legal compliance issues in order to create a FAQs document for the sector.

If you have any questions regarding copyright or data protection issues relating to volunteers working in museums, please send them to info@naomikorn.com  by the end of 7th February 2020.

We look forward to hearing from you!