Frequently Asked Questions

Why would SFU Archives ask me to sign over copyright ownership of my records?

You are not required to assign copyright ownership of your records to SFU Archives as a condition of donation. However, we ask that you consider doing so because it facilitates the use of your records by our researchers.

Copyright protection arises automatically when an author creates a record. That means you own copyright to every letter you have written, every photograph you have taken, or every interview you have recorded.

Copyright is not triggered when researchers simply want to view your records for the purpose of research or private study. Researchers are also entitled to quote excerpts from your records.

Copyright permission need only be sought, for example, when a researcher wants to publish copies of your records in a monograph or journal article, post copies of your records on a website, or display copies of your records as part of a public presentation.

Consider the following use case. If a researcher wants to publish one of your photographs in a book, s/he needs your permission to do so. If you have retained copyright in your records, SFU Archives is required to direct that researcher to you to negotiate the terms and conditions of their use. That researcher then needs to provide SFU Archives with documented proof of your permission before we can allow a copy to be made. Further complicating the matter, copyright subsists in records for 50 years after the death of their creator, meaning permission to copy the records may need to be sought from heirs or the estate of the original copyright owner if the records have not yet passed into the public domain.

Assigning copyright ownership of your records to SFU Archives means our researchers can simply copy the materials in our holdings without first clearing permission with you. Since most donors want their materials to be used by others, assigning copyright to SFU Archives simply facilitates the creative repurposing of the material you donate to us.

Please note that, generally, as a donor you only own copyright to the works you authored, but not necessarily to all the records you donated. For example, you would not likely own copyright in the letters you received (as opposed to authored) and kept. While the letters are your personal property, copyright is actually owned by the authors of the in-coming letters.

Feel free to contact the Staff Archivist about any questions or concerns you may have with either retaining or assigning copyright ownership.