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Digitisation Projects: Copyright

This guide outlines the various options available to those undertaking digitisation projects, considering the entire workflow from planning, hosting, copyright, digital imaging, metadata, software, web publishing tools etc.

What Are The Rights / Permissions Of The Items?

You will need to factor in time to check out copyright situation of your materials. Consider: 


  • Who owns the copyright of the materials? Physical ownership of an item does not mean you own the copyright. Copyright lasts for the lifetime of the author and for a period of up to 70 years after the author’s death. Different content types (e.g. musical / sound recordings) may have different date spans.


  • Do you need to consider “third party” copyright? For example, a photographer may be the copyright holder of their photographs published within a book. Works may incorporate images, text, film, graphics, music and sound as well other audiovisual material; this all increases the likelihood of layers of rights, many or all of which will require clearance.


  • How do you want to use materials for which you don’t have copyright? Copyright holders may be happy for you to make available their materials or portions of materials for research / academic use, but not for commercial use.



  • What steps should I take to help mitigate any potential risks? Use credit lines to show the works in which rights are owned by third parties; make it easy for users to understand the terms under which content can be accessed and used by including copyright statements and licences. Please refer to UCD Library’s Copyright guide for more information. UCD’s Corporate and Legal Office can advise on more in-depth copyright queries; please contact them at 

Copyright Scenarios

The UK Data Service has put together a number of copyright scenarios for data sharing including:

  • copyright of media sources

  • licensed data
  • interviews with “elites”
  • transcriptions from printed word into a spreadsheet
  • use of data obtained from the UK Data Service (or similar service)
  • re-use of existing survey questions