21 September 2023

Building Communities of Copyright Practice Within and Across Cultural Heritage Organisations

By Naomi Korn

This post discusses the concept of a Community of Copyright Practice Within and Across Cultural Heritage Organisations. Whilst the concept of a community of copyright practice has been around for a while now mainly across educational establishments[1], it has not been actively applied to cultural heritage organisations. The concept and its applications to Archival Services, was first presented at the ARA Annual Conference 2023 at a workshop facilitated by Naomi Korn on 1 September 2023.

Staff and volunteers working across cultural heritage organisations often need to navigate the application of copyright laws to collection items representing extraordinarily diverse subject matters, ages, media types and creators. This can be complex and frustrating. Efforts to try and balance copyright compliance obligations with desires to engage their unique and important collections with online audiences can result in resourcing pressures in attempting to trace rights holders as well as risk aversion regarding decisions about what to digitise and publish online. The necessity to make decisions about copyright issues, can leave staff feeling isolated and subsequently concerned about the impact of the decisions that they make. Most cultural heritage organisations do not have a dedicated copyright specialist on site, unlike their colleagues in educational establishments.

Sharing experiences, concerns, and solutions about copyright can be a positive and empowering experience. It can provide much needed sense-checks about risk and risk appetite, lead to potential rights holders and reduce feelings of isolation. Improving confidence and skills can also function as an antidote to systemic risk aversion which can be detrimental to online access.

The concept of a community of copyright practice is not new. It’s been around for a while now mainly across educational establishments[2]. What is new is how it might apply to cultural heritage organisations, who do not have the same copyright internal resources, and therefore require support within and across their organisations.

The framework below is based on five core elements – forming an ABCDE mnemonic – which are core for the development of a community of copyright practice, considering limited levels of investment in copyright support. Using this framework, it can be used to map the types of activities that might be used to implement, embed, and maintain such a framework. Whilst the mapped activities are not an exhaustive list, they are indicative of the breath and range of opportunities that can be harnessed to support the development of communities of copyright practice.

TopicsWithin Cultural Heritage OrganisationsAcross Cultural Heritage Organisations
Awareness raisingRegular staff and volunteer trainingTraining upon inductionCopyright responsibilities listed in job descriptions.Annual awareness-raising campaigns. Articles in professional newslettersSharing of organisational case studies
Building capacityDepartmental Copyright ChampionsSenior leadership supportRegular copyright-themed meetingsRegular meetingsInternships/sabbaticals
Confidence development Use of exceptions to copyrightLinks to content that can be used such as Creative Commons licensed resources. Mentoring across organisationsSharing best practice at conferences and related events 
Developing policies and proceduresDrafting and regular review of policies and proceduresPolicies and processes for managing orphan works & evaluating riskTake Down policies Cross archive discussions Sharing policies and procedures
Embedding copyright into the cultureDepartmental meetings at which copyright is a standing issue.Linking copyright to other issuesBudget planning/project management to include rights management and clearance.Part of organisational risk framework.Conference papersNetworking events
Facilitating skills development Budget for external training/attendance at conferences.Bursaries offered for copyright CPDConference workshops

Naomi Korn Associates offer a range of Copyright services to help organisations understand how to remain legally compliant when using third party material as well as how best to protect and optimise their assets. We also provide downloadable resources, operational tools and templates, jargon-free advice, practical trainingand mentoring to ensure organisations comply with copyright legislation on a day-to-day basis. For more information contact info@naomikorn.com.

[1] https://www.academiclibrariesnorth.ac.uk/copyright-community-practice

[2] https://www.academiclibrariesnorth.ac.uk/copyright-community-practice

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