Risky Business? Issues in Licensing Copies of Archival Holdings

  • Jean Dryden


This study investigates the policies and practices of Canada’s national, provincial, and territorial archives when they are making copies for users. In many cases, these repositories attempt to control further uses under the rubric of copyright, even though they may not be the rights holders and/or interests other than copyright may be at issue. Referencing the data available on their websites, the study looks at copyright ownership and the conditions imposed on copies for users. The study reveals a wide range of practices across institutions and internal inconsistencies within a single repository’s practice. From a legal perspective, certain practices are somewhat problematic, although they may not pose a great legal risk. More significantly, by confusing users and inappropriately restricting access and use, some archives are compromising their core mission to make their holdings available. These institutions’ policies and practices for making copies for users need review to ensure that they are comprehensive, internally consistent, and up to date.


Cette étude examine les politiques et pratiques des archives nationales, provinciales et territoriales canadiennes par rapport à la création de copies pour les utilisateurs. Dans plusieurs cas, ces centres d’archives tentent de contrôler d’autres utilisations du matériel en prétextant le droit d’auteur, même s’ils ne sont parfois pas les détenteurs du droit d’auteur, et/ou des questions autres que le droit d’auteur peuvent entrer en jeu. En faisant référence à l’information disponible sur leurs sites web, cette étude examine l’établissement du droit d’auteur et les conditions que l’on impose sur les copies pour les utilisateurs. Cette étude révèle une grande étendue de pratiques entre les institutions et des inconsistances de pratiques au sein d’une seule institution. Du point de vue légal, certaines pratiques sont quelque peu problématiques, quoi qu’elles ne constituent pas un risque légal majeur. Plus important encore, en semant la confusion auprès des utilisateurs et en restreignant l’accès et l’utilisation de façon inappropriée, certains centres d’archives mettent à risque leur mission de base de rendre leurs collections disponibles. Les politiques et pratiques de ces institutions par rapport à la création de copies pour les utilisateurs ont besoin d’être revues afin d’assurer qu’elles sont complètes, consistantes et à jour.

Author Biography

Jean Dryden

Jean Dryden is an information professional with qualifications in records management, archives, and librarianship, She has over 35 years of experience as a staff archivist and archival administrator at the National Archives of Canada and the Provincial Archives of Alberta, and as chief archivist of the United Church of Canada/Victoria University Archives. Her doctoral dissertation investigated the copyright practices of Canadian archival repositories in making their holdings available online. While on the faculty at the University of Maryland, she completed a grant-funded comparative study of the practices of American repositories. In 2015, she completed a Master of Laws degree, specializing in intellectual property, at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, Toronto. She has been active throughout her career on committees and boards of professional associations. As chair of the Bureau of Canadian Archivists Copyright Committee, she played a lead role in successfully lobbying for amendments to the Copyright Act that benefited libraries, archives, and museums. In addition to being the author of numerous publications and presentations on copyright issues, she is the author of Demystifying Copyright: A Researcher’s Guide to Copyright in Canadian Libraries and Archives, 2nd ed. (Ottawa, ON: Canadian Library Association, 2014) and is a past general editor of Archivaria.

How to Cite
Dryden, Jean. 2016. “Risky Business? Issues in Licensing Copies of Archival Holdings”. Archivaria 82 (December), 111-36. https://www.archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/13583.