Digitization, privacy, & copyright concerns

[Again from my SAA listserv.]

Subject:

Third-party privacy question
From: “Melissa Gerst” <mgerst1@luc.edu>
Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2008 09:54:52 -0400
To: “Archives & Archivists (A&A) List” <archives@forums.archivists.org>

I am wondering how others have handled the digitization of 20th century materials, specially correspondence. The archive where I am employed contains a large quantity of correspondence between the donor of the collection and third-party correspondents. We would like to make this available on the web but are concerned about privacy issues as most of these correspondents are unaware that their letters are in the archives.

I am interested in how others have handled this issue. How is this issue addressed generally when researchers visit the archives vs. on the web in your institution?

If you have digitized similar material, did you make a best faith effort to contact correspondents? Did you redact personal information, such as addresses?

Thank you for your help,
Melissa M. Ford
Archivist
Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum
Saginaw Valley State University
7400 Bay Road
University Center, MI 48710

Subject:

Third-party privacy [digital publication/copyright]
From: “HARTSOOK, HERBERT” <HERB@mailbox.sc.edu>
Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2008 10:40:23 -0400

We discussed this after digitizing an important civil rights collection for preservation purposes.  We decided to make the entire collection available on site only, and will make available on line only those portions of the collection for which we clearly hold copyright, the gentleman’s speeches, etc. 

Herb Hartsook
Herbert J. Hartsook, Director
South Carolina Political Collections
University of South Carolina Libraries
Columbia, SC 29208
803-777-0577     Fax 803-777-0582
www.sc.edu/library/scpc/

Subject: RE:

Third-party privacy question
From: jim gilson <jgilson61@hotmail.com>
Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2008 11:52:02 -0400

Melissa–
 
I think before you worry about privacy you should think about whether you might be in violation of copyright laws and consult with your university lawyers.
 
I see from Peter Hirtle/Cornell’s handy copyright chart that unpublished works are protected for the life of the author + 70 years so only those authors who died in 1938 and before are inthe public domain.
 
And if that doesn’t do it for you I would think about the negative effect it might have on others who might want to donate their materials and decide not to because they don’t want their private thoughts made public.  Especially if they’re not in the public eye.  And even if they are in the public eye.
 
Jim Gilson
Archivist/Digitization Librarian (but not a copyright expert)
Vigo County Public Library
Terre Haute, IN

 

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