16 March 2021

Managing Copyright at the Imperial War Museum: The 14-18 NOW Programme

By Ellie Pridgeon, Consultant at Naomi Korn Associates, and Lead Archivist, 14-18 NOW programme

NOW_11_2018_02_006_004_001. 14-18 NOW ‘Pages of the Sea’ project. Copyright Imperial War Museum.

This blog explores some of the key rights management challenges encountered on 14-18 NOW – the UK’s First World War commemoration programme. Based at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in London, the 14-18 NOW team was supported by Naomi Korn Associates.

Project overview

14-18 NOW was the official arts programme for the First World War centenary: www.1418now.org.uk

Between 2014 and 2018, 14-18 NOW commissioned 107 projects across the UK. These included the ‘Poppies: Wave’ and ‘Weeping Window’ sculptures by Paul Cummings and Tom Piper, Peter Jackson’s BAFTA-nominated film ‘They Shall not Grow Old’, and Danny Boyle’s ‘Pages of the Sea’.

Towards the end of the programme, the 14-18 NOW archive team catalogued more than 15,000 contemporary digital records, including photographs, film, emails, and administrative files, as well paper documents. In 2020, the collection (and in certain cases the copyright) was transferred to IWM.

The 14-18 NOW archive team consisted of consultants Ellie Pridgeon (Consultant with Naomi Korn Associates), Judy Vaknin and Gillian Boll, and archive assistant Eva Eicker. Web capture was undertaken by web archivist and researcher Anisa Hawes.

Managing copyright

Managing copyright for the 14-18 NOW programme was a complex undertaking and is still ongoing in 2021. A major challenge is that the 14-18 NOW archive does not contain many photographer and filmmaker contracts. For most projects, regional venues commissioned external freelance photographers and filmmakers to record 14-18 NOW events taking place locally. Hence identifying record creators and copyright holders, as well as establishing whether copyright transfer to commissioning organisations had taken place, proved a challenge. A case in point was ‘we’re here because we’re here’ – a project conceived and created by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller.[i]

‘We’re here because we’re here’ saw around 1400 voluntary participants dressed in First World War uniforms appear unexpectedly in locations across the UK to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. Produced by Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the National Theatre in collaboration with 26 organisations, photographers and filmmakers were largely commissioned by regional partners. In many cases, paper trails that help us trace copyright holders may well exist. However, because of the sheer quantity of 14-18 NOW records – around 15,000 in all – undertaking individual copyright searches was impossible. Where the rights holder was unknown, the decision was made to exclude digital material from IWM’s ‘Collections Online’ catalogue.

14-18 NOW was one of first heritage projects to use Webrecorder tools to capture websites and social media content.[ii]

Identifying and managing copyright for web archiving proved a complex undertaking. The key challenge was that projects such as ‘we’re here because we’re here’ encouraged public engagement and the use of hashtags. The social media content creators were copyright holders. Their posts appeared both on platforms (eg Twitter, Instagram), and on the 14-18 NOW website social media feed. It unrealistic for the project team to identify and contact every social media content creator about transferral of copyright or licencing of material. However, web archiving falls under the exception for preservation purposes in UK Copyright law – whereby libraries, archives and museums may copy material in their permanent collections for preservation purposes. Webrecorder preserves digital content – namely websites and social media – and creates a web archiving (WArc) file containing the digital content. The copyright exception also specifies that preserved works must not be publicly accessible outside the reading room. The decision was therefore taken to provide access to 14-18 NOW web archived content on in-house terminals only. Discussions regarding precise procedures for access are still ongoing.

Other 14-18 NOW records were less complex to manage. Official 14-18 NOW-generated digital content featured on the official website, microsites and social media feeds were managed by marketing partners The Cogency. This content was licensed for certain activities, e.g. for use on social media. 14-18 NOW were also copyright for most administrative files and emails created by the programme (although not for externally generated correspondence).

Lessons learnt

Managing copyright is a complex and time-consuming process, and institutions should plan from an early stage in their project. Copyright restrictions are everywhere, especially when working with modern records, new technology and digital ‘solutions’ such as web archiving. However, by implementing a compliant and risk assessed approach to collections management, organisations can make decisions about how best to manage their digital assets now and in the future.

If you’re planning a project, it’s vital to consider how you’ll manage copyright from the outset. Our experienced team of consultants can help you develop the strategies to make the most out of your assets while keeping in line with your project aims. For more information about how we can help, visit our Consultancy page by clicking here

[i]  https://becausewearehere.co.uk/

[ii] https://webrecorder.net/

© Naomi Korn Associates, 2021. Some Rights Reserved. The text is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike Licence (CC BY SA)

Disclaimer: The material in this blog post is for general information only and is not legal advice. Always consult a qualified lawyer about a specific legal problem.

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