Copyright in the Real World: Making Archival Material Available on the Internet

Type: Thesis
Jean Dryden
This doctoral thesis presents empirical research conducted with Canadian archives services, to explore the effect of copyright on the selection and control of images of archive material made available online.
The abstract provided by the author(s) of this work is as follows: The purpose of this study is to investigate the practices of Canadian repositories in making their archival holdings available on the Internet to see whether they are more or less restrictive than copyright law requires. The Internet provides an opportunity to make archival material more widely accessible; however, repositories’ copyright practices in making their holdings available online may affect the extent to which wider access to archival material is actually achieved. The study employed four different sources of evidence, i.e., the website content of 154 Canadian repositories whose websites feature archival material from the repository’s holdings; copyright policy and procedure documents of those repositories; 106 responses to a questionnaire sent to the staff of those repositories; and 22 interviews with repository staff members. In terms of selection for online access, the study found that the repositories studied prefer to select items that are perceived to incur little risk of copyright infringement (because the copyright has expired or because the repository owns the copyright), or items that require few or no resources to investigate copyright status or obtain copyright authorizations. Thus, with regard to selection, repositories were more restrictive than the law required, largely due to lack of resources. Although repositories have no legal or professional obligation to enforce others’ copyright interests, they nonetheless attempt to control further uses of their online holdings through the use of technical measures (e.g., low resolution images, watermarks, etc.) or non-technical measures (e.g., conditions placed on further uses), for reasons not necessarily related to copyright. Overall, the study found that repositories’ practices in making their holding available online were more restrictive than copyright law envisages. While this may be due to factors other than copyright, access to online documentary heritage may be limited as a result.
University of Toronto
University of Toronto
1.6 MB, 320 pp.
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Cortex Citation:
Jean Dryden, “Copyright in the Real World: Making Archival Material Available on the Internet,” Copyright Cortex, accessed September 15, 2019,