Working with Copyright–Protected Materials in a Digital Environment



Summary of Project

In 2002, Pacific Film Archive was awarded an IMLS National Leadership Grant to explore innovative ways of working with copyrighted materials in the digital environment. The primary goals of the project are to thoroughly research and investigate copyright licensing and permissions practices, with an aim not only to negotiate additional permissions to display digital surrogates via CineFiles, but also to produce guidelines for others confronting similar concerns.


We began by researching current literature on the issue of digital access to copyright–protected materials, and by compiling a detailed list of experts and colleagues to consult and interview who are engaged in comparable projects or who have similar intellectual property concerns. We prepared an online survey and invited responses from a broad cross–section of stakeholders including readers of the Image–lib and mcn–l listservs; IMLS grant recipients; and managers of other digital projects based in U.S. and international libraries, museums, and archives. We also consulted an attorney with expertise in intellectual property law about legal issues regarding the presentation of digital surrogates of protected materials. We reviewed and improved our permissions request procedures. We sought advice on ways in which developing innovations such as tethering technology, watermarking, and other property protection–encoding technologies could be applied by CineFiles and similar digital image databases.

Rights Clearance

Concurrently with the research described above, we identifed and researched contact information for numerous rights holders, focusing on those holding copyright to documents in the CineFiles database. PFA's copyright permissions analyst designed a systematic schedule to request permissions and query copyright holders regarding their requirements for granting permissions. This included asking whether use of technologies such as tethering, read–only access, or linking to publishers' sites would encourage them to grant permission. Descriptions of our procedures, permissions packets, and results, as well as digital rights management guidelines and case studies of interactions with copyright holders (including publishing houses, newspapers, festivals, and individuals), and individuals are included as part of this website.

Public Domain

The copyright permissions analyst also identified groups of documents that are in the public domain and can be made freely available: for example, publicity materials, and pre-1964 publications for which copyrights were not renewed. In addition, she studied the issue of tracking rights to defunct companies and publications. This data is included in the Copyright Toolbox section of this website.

Surveys and Results

The results of the surveys undertaken during the grant period are presented in the "Surveys and Results." In this section, we analyze the methodology and results of our initial research; describe the design, implementation, and success rates of new approaches to securing permissions initiated during the grant period, discuss the technical innovations that can be used to enhance protection of copyrighted materials; and offer practical recommendations for others seeking to provide access to digital surrogates.

Final Report

The final project report which will present the overall project results and conclusions will be added to this website in mid-2006.