Managing the intellectual property rights and data protection rights associated with objects, reproductions and information.

Copyright is the commonest of the ‘intellectual property rights’ you may need to deal with, but there are others (including publication rights, trademarks, patents and designs). You can also use this procedure to manage the data protection rights that may be associated with photographs of living people in some circumstances.

Owning something does not automatically mean you own the copyright or any other associated rights. So the first step in rights management is to work out what rights might apply to a given object, who might hold them, and how long the rights will last. Note that the law applies equally to physical works (eg a 35mm transparency) and to born-digital works (eg an image file from a digital camera). You also need to work out who, if anyone, has rights in any existing reproduction of that object, or whether you can claim copyright (or, potentially, publication right) in any new reproduction you make.

This procedure cannot tell you when material in your collection might be subject to one or more rights, only how to manage rights you have identified through your research. Many situations will be straightforward once you have grasped some basic legal principles; others will be more complex and may rely on law that has not yet been tested in court. Your rights management policy should set out your approach to risk in situations where potential rights holders are unknown or untraceable.

The Collections Trust website has links to resources that can answer many of the most frequently-asked questions about copyright and related rights. If in doubt, you should seek specialist advice and proceed with due diligence and common sense.

Rights management - the Spectrum standard


You should have a policy covering rights management. This could either be a standalone document or part of a wider collections management policy. Either way, in deciding your policy you will most likely need to consider these questions: What steps will you take to establish who holds any rights associated with new acquisitions or loans? […]

Rights management - suggested procedure


You should have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when managing rights associated with your collection. This suggested procedure, and the workflow based on it, are useful starting points. However you do it, your own procedure should meet the minimum requirements of the Spectrum standard. To see the workflow as PDF, follow […]