Working with Copyright–Protected Materials in a Digital Environment





Since 1994, the Pacific Film Archive (PFA), a curatorial department of the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, has been developing CineFiles: The Pacific Film Archive's Film Document Imaging Project. The CineFiles project is significantly improving access to information about film history by making available via the Internet selected materials from one of the major film documentation collections in the United States. On the CineFiles website (, users can already obtain detailed indexing information on thousands of documents, and can view images of materials that copyright holders have granted us permission to display. The CineFiles database is a powerful and cost-effective reference tool with a goal of opening PFA's collection to the widest possible audience.

Actively compiled since 1972, the PFA film documentation collection currently includes more than 200,000 documents covering more than a century of film history. It includes materials such as American and international press kits; filmmaker's texts and correspondence; festival and premiere programs; excerpts from thousands of out–of–print publications; exhibitor manuals and advertising campaigns; film reviews; interviews; pamphlets; and other documents. PFA collects and preserves rare historical film documents and centralizes access to materials that would otherwise have to be gathered from a variety of sources.

Before CineFiles was accessible via the Internet, PFA's collections were used by an average of 5,000 people annually, including 2,000 in–person visits and 3,000 requests transacted by phone or mail. Website statistics show that the CineFiles database is now consulted nearly 100,000 times per year, demonstrating that use of the collection increases significantly as it becomes more accessible.


  • Initial research and development of CineFiles commenced in 1994. To date, the project has received support from the National Endowment for the Humantities, the Packard Humanties Institute, the Library Services and Technology Act, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and many individual donors.
  • CineFiles data resides in a customized, highly sophisticated SQL relational database. Documents are scanned and indexed in line with national library standards and rigorously monitored to ensure accuracy and consistency.
  • Each CineFiles document is retrievable via the Internet from multiple access points that include title, author, source, date, and subject. Films are indexed and retrievable by title, director, country, production company, genre and subject.
  • To date, more than 40,000 documents have been processed, representing nearly one–fourth of the current collection. These include thousands of unique archival objects such as rare exhibitor manuals, and materials on the works of more than 125 significant American and international directors.
  • Procedures to obtain copyright permission to display scanned documents have been streamlined and integrated into the project, with thousands of documents already cleared. IMLS funds are supporting research into improving the permissions process and developing guidelines for best practices for working with copyright–protected materials.


PFA's long–term goal is to gradually process its entire documentation collection. Because this is an ambitious, multi–year undertaking, PFA intends to raise funds from a variety of sources to ensure the project's continued development. To maximize the usefulness and breadth of the database, PFA will continue to prioritize the processing of materials on films made by prominent directors. This will provide scholars and film enthusiasts a convenient, quick, and extensive reference to information about world cinema.