Gathering Legal Information for Digitizing Projects: Part 1

About this Form

What is this form for?

Our stewardship responsibilities obviously apply to care and access of our collections, but we are stewards of intellectual property embodied in many of those materials. There are often other legal rights implicated by digitizing projects, even ethical considerations or cultural sensitivities. This form is intended to glean the kind of information that helps evaluate materials, analyze the legal implications if any, and provide recommended steps towards making a project possible. Determining the most appropriate type of access and overall course of action. Access might range from preservation-only access to global access.

This form is just what it says it is - an information-gathering tool

Not every question will be relevant to your project. In fact, it is just as important to note when you do not know the answer to a question or you think a question unanswerable though it’s useful to know the reason you think that is the case. Do not be daunted by the number of questions – in most cases, many will simply not be relevant. Please answer everything you can, or note things you have questions about and we will discuss these later. Think of this as a net to identify areas that may need further documentation or analysis.

Community practice

Among cultural institutions like libraries, museums, and archive, this kind of data collection and evaluation process is consistent with reasonable community of practice that has developed since the mid-1990s (See Resources, below). By documenting the answers to these questions and then preparing a written evaluation, we act with respect for rights that may be associated with materials under consideration. We improve our ability to provide access to our collections by placing them online to further research and learning. The Library’s primary purposes in this activity are scholarship, education, research and similar needs. This document promotes a well-intentioned, practical approach to identifying and, through an evaluative memo, resolving rights issues in line with professional and ethical standards.

Keep in mind: select materials thoughtfully

Keep your mission in mind and start with materials of high research value or high user interest. Explain the general reason for digitizing the material and the need for access. Preservation, faculty demand, research value, rarity are all important factors where relevant. The reasons for scanning materials are critical to being able to assess whether and how fair use may apply to a particular situation.

What to provide

Please provide URLs, hard copies, or email any related documentation and refer to those items as you fill out the form. This form is provided in Word so that you can edit your responses directly into the form. You can add anything you think is relevant. Please do not change the format. Simply note ‘NA’ where a question is not applicable. If you have already provided this information for other parts of the Workflow, please just refer and include to that documentation – no need to repeat it twice. If there are additions or changes to collections over time, please contact the Copyright Office or the Digital Library Production Service to see if further review is needed.


Based on the information provided, the Copyright Office will provide a written evaluation that identifies any questions or concerns, identifies options, and make recommendations for courses of action that will be used by the Library to determine whether and how the project should proceed in light of resource allocation and as a practical matter given competing priorities. There are a range of possible outcomes - the information gathered in helps us determine what makes the most sense legally and practically. It may be that there are no copyright or other questions. It may be that we can only provide limited access or less. We can evaluate whether it is feasible as a practical matter to seek permissions if need be. We can determine if legal interns can carry out the needed work under the direction of the Copyright Office. The purpose of this effort is to have a legally sound basis for providing the greatest possible access and to proactively work out any other issues presented, such as privacy concerns. The data gathered here may allow us to open materials at a later date even if the immediate prospect is unlikely.

Notice statements and legal or administrative metadata

If there is enough information, the memo will include draft statements to be provided online for people accessing the resulting online materials. The Library provides different statements regarding its copyright practices that may be viewed with an individual item and/or at a collection level where applicable. A sample statement for a collection might look like this:

These digitized collections are accessible for purposes of education and research. We’ve indicated what we know about copyright and rights of privacy, publicity, or trademark. Due to the nature of archival collections, we are not always able to identify this information. We are eager to hear from any rights owners, so that we may obtain accurate information. Upon request, we’ll remove material from public view while we address a rights issue.

We provide access to digital collections where (include relevant items):

  • materials are in the public domain
  • rights are held by the Library
  • Library has permission to make them accessible
  • We make them accessible for education and research purposes as a legal fair use, or
  • There are no known restrictions on use
  • Campus only; authenticated only

[State any known conditions or contacts for permissions as appropriate.]

Getting started

If you are new to this kind of project, you may want to take some time to peruse some of these resources. Check the KNC schedule and Enriching Scholarship for workshops about copyright.

Next... we'll provide information on questions to answer and documentation to provide.

Page maintained by Kat Hagedorn
Last modified: 06/12/2013