"Well-intentioned Practice for Putting Digitized Collections of Unpublished Materials Online" Endorsed as a Standard by the Society of American Archivists

This practice provides the framework for an assertive approach to digitization of unpublished archival materials whose rights holders are often difficult to identify and contact.

This approach is the output of the 2010 "Undue Diligence" seminar in which OCLC Research convened a group of experts in archives, special collections and law to develop streamlined, community-accepted procedures for managing copyright in the digital age that would cut costs and boost confidence in libraries' and archives' ability to increase access to unpublished materials online.

The group acknowledged that, although there is risk in digitizing materials that may be in copyright, this risk should be balanced with the harm to scholarship and society inherent in not making collections fully accessible. Based on this premise, members of the group identified a practical approach to selecting collections, making decisions, seeking permissions, recording outcomes, establishing policy and working with future donors that is in line with professional and ethical standards. OCLC Research outlined this approach in the "Well-intentioned practice for putting digitized collections of unpublished materials online" [pdf] (WIP) document, and a community of practice has formed around it.

At its 2011 annual meeting, the Society of American Archivist (SAA) Council voted to endorse the WIP as a standard. SAA's Intellectual Property Working Group (IPWG), which tracks intellectual property issues of concern to archivists and drafts responses or position papers as needed, provided a preface for SAA's endorsement of this practice. Both the preface and the endorsement are available on SAA's standards portal.

By endorsing WIP as a standard, SAA joins a distinguished group of organizations and individuals that support the practices outlined in the WIP. Other organizations that have joined the community of practice by endorsing these procedures include the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the American Library Association (ALA), the Joint National Committee on Archives, Libraries and Museums (CALM), and the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA). These endorsements encourage practitioners to more confidently increase and significantly improve access to collections of unpublished materials for the purpose of furthering research and learning.

More Information

See SAA's endorsement and preface of the "Well-intentioned practice"

Read the "Well-intentioned practice for putting digitized collections of unpublished materials online"

Review the list of institutions that have endorsed this practice

Learn more about the OCLC Research activity associated with this practice, Introduce Balance in Rights Management

Learn more about the OCLC Research event, "Undue Diligence"

Learn more about the Society of American Archivists

Read the full news release

For more information:

Merrilee Proffitt
Senior Program Officer
OCLC Research

Melissa Renspie
Senior Communications Officer
OCLC Research