I’ve been involved with several digitisation projects, including one of the round of New Opportunities Fund (now BIG Lottery fund) digitisation projects back in 2001-3 – Church Plans Online. At the start of that particular project we were in a much stronger position than many other NOF projects in that all 13,000 of the items (church plans, believe it or not) being digitised had already been catalogued, and an extensive amount of research had been also undertaken on the firms and individual architects responsible. The plans dated between 1818 and 1982 so the range of rights research and clearance required was variable across the archive.
Nonetheless, researching the then rights-holders and securing permissions – where possible – to digitise and make the plans available online took much longer than anticipated, even allowing for the use of the fantastic resources at the RIBA British Architectural Library and the numerous directories based on extensive research into the profession of architect.
Since the days of the NOF projects, a lot of lessons have been learned about handling IPR and much good practice and useful tools developed. I recently came across an extremely useful IPR risk management calculator intended for use at the project planning stage. The tool (first iteration) gives a very quick indication of indicative risk level and links to further information about steps to mitigate risks such as templates for Notice and Take Down Policies.
The calculator has been designed to provide a guide to the types of criteria which might reduce or raise levels of risks associated with material for which permission has not been sought, and then help understand the types of decisions which could potentially reduce their risk. Typical examples of this might include materials which are still in copyright, but for which the rights holders cannot be traced or are unknown (so called “Orphan Works”)…
[The] Risk Management Calculator provides an INDICATIVE risk level only, but demonstrates that for example, the more open the end use licence you select to make these types of materials accessible and reusable, the greater the potential risk if you have not sought the appropriate permissions.