|Title:||Only with your permission: how rights holders respond (or don’t respond) to requests to display archival materials online|
|Citation:||Akmon, D. (2010). Only with your permission: how rights holders respond (or don’t respond) to requests to display archival materials online. Archival Science, 10(1), 45-64.|
|Link(s):||Definitive , Open Access|
|Key Related Studies:|
|About the Data|
|Data Description:||This paper presents an analysis of data on copyright clearance collected from the Jon Cohen AIDS Research Collection digitization project at the University of Michigan Library and the School of Information. The Cohen collection contains 13,381 items, 5,463 (approximately 11 linear feet) of which are protected by copyright held by 1,377 unique copyright holders|
|Data Type:||Primary and Secondary data|
|Secondary Data Sources:|
|Data Collection Methods:|
|Data Analysis Methods:|
|Cross Country Study?:||No|
|Government or policy study?:||No|
|Time Period(s) of Collection:||
Archival repositories are increasingly considering mass digitization as a means of meeting user expectations that materials be available online, remotely. Copyright is frequently noted as a significant obstacle to these efforts, but little empirical data exist on the copyright permissions process in archives. This article reports the findings of a study of the copyright permissions process for the Jon Cohen AIDS Research Collection at the University of Michigan. Specifically, the study sought to reveal how much effort is required to seek copyright permissions, what the results of those efforts would be, and whether or not there were traits of documents or copyright holders that were associated with accept or denial status. The study found that significant time is required to contact and negotiate with rights holders and that the biggest obstacle to getting permission is non-response. Of those requests that get a response, the vast majority are to grant permission. While few of the requests were met with denial, the data suggest that commercial copyright holders are much more likely to deny permission than other types of copyright holders. The data also show that adherence to the common policy of only displaying online those documents with explicit permission will likely result in substantially incomplete online collections.
Main Results of the Study
- While most of the copyrighted items (96%, 5,262) in the Cohen collection had just one copyright holder, a small portion had between two and ten copyright holders. Items with multiple rights holders would generally take considerably more time to obtain permissions for than items with just one rights holder
- The mean response time from staff’s initial permissions request until resolution (where resolution is defined as some answer from the rights holder), was 41 days
- Commercial copyright holders were found to have a significantly higher mean response time than individual copyright holders
- Refuse permission for all responses were found to have a significantly higher mean response time than grant permission to all responses. In addition, grant permission for some responses also had a significantly higher mean response time than grant permission to all responses
- Approximately 120 days after the initial request, there are diminishing returns, no matter the type of copyright holder. That is, the percentage that survive (i.e. do not respond) stays level for all types of copyright holders after a period of approximately 120 days.
- Most often those responses were to grant permission to all. Of all of the responses from rights holders, 679 (91%) were to grant the Library permission to display all items requested in permissions letters. Only 46 (6%) of the responses were refuse all. In fact, the biggest obstacle to displaying materials online was non-response: 352 (32%) of all of the Cohen Project permissions requests were met with non-response.
- The Library ultimately had permission to display online 3,490 (64%) of the copyrighted items in the collection. Unfortunately, 981 (18%) of the copyright items in the collection could not be displayed due to non-response from rights holders. Another 687 (13%) could not be displayed for three main reasons: staff could not identify the rights holder (22); staff could not locate the rights holder (309); or the rights holder was a company that they found to be defunct (356). Only 294 (5%) of the copyrighted items in the Cohen Collection were explicitly denied.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
- Archives must reconsider the appropriateness of a policy that equates non-response with denial. There is a certain cost to restricting oneself to only posting materials with a definitive “granted permission” response, even after a significant amount of effort has gone into requesting permission from the rights holder.
- Which copyright-related factors should archives consider when evaluating whether or not to digitize a particular collection for online, open access? As shown by this and other projects, cost is a major factor in mass digitization efforts, and the Cohen data demonstrate that tasks related to copyright permissions account for a significant portion of staff time.
- The Cohen Project benefitted greatly from a dedicated source of funding
- A large number of requests (32%) were met with non-response. This fact, in conjunction with data that show that if there is no response after approximately four months, there is likely not to be one at all, might encourage archivists to place limits on the length of time they invest in the process
- Because so much time is required to contact and negotiate with rights holders, spending that time on rights holders with many documents in a collection yields more than spending time seeking permission from rights holders with just one or two items in a collection.
- Repositories might only be able to display a small portion of collections with many corporate third party rights holders
Coverage of Study
|Level of aggregation:||Copyright holder|
|Period of material under study:||2007-2009|