13 March 2014

Oral Interviews + Copyright -- Are You Using Best Practices?

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We frequently talk about the value of Oral Interviews either as we work to record such now for future generations or as we listen to or read transcriptions from interviews done in the past.

Last month, James Tanner (Genealogy’s Star) did a post Oral Interviews and the law of Copyright which was his response/ruminations to a post by Michael J Leclerc’s Mocavo post Copyright and the Oral Interview.  The former has a lot of detail of best practices he researched in the world beyond genealogy.

To be honest, I had never really thought about these issues.  Let me clarify that statement – if I was interviewing my family members (and obviously with their consent) the concept of copyright would not have been at the forefront of my brain.  Though, now, after listening to several talks by Judy G Russell (The Legal Genealogist) and reading the posts by James and Michael, there clearly are copyright issues that we need to be aware of as we make plans to conduct (and record) oral interviews with family members.

It can be invaluable to check out established Oral History programs, such as the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (University of Florida), the Southern Oral History Program (UNC-CH) (includes a resource page), Columbia Center for Oral History, etc., to see both what they have in their collections and to explore the “best practices” that they have used to amass their collections.

As with any other “original works,” Oral Interviews are copyrighted and it’s imperative that the genealogical community understand the ins and outs of copyright law to make sure that once the interview is completed, we understand how we can or cannot share that interview with others.


Editor’s Note: Additionally, Upfront with NGS has published posts regarding Oral Interviews and their value:




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