Tuesday, March 28, 2006

CIL2006: Digitization Project Management Essentials (deed of gift forms)

K. M. Dames and I did a workshop on Digitization Project Management Essentials on Saturday afternoon. We packed a lot of content into three hours and posted even more online.

There are always more questions than time will allow. One question that emerged was about deed of gift forms. I wrote about this form in 2004 and you can read that posting here. It contains basic information as well as links to sample forms.

The Society of American Archivists guide to the deed of gift form gives good information on what can/should be included in such a document. It is written for those that might donate materials, but is still a good source of information for institutions that are receiving donations. Let me pull out some key sentences from that guide:

  • The signed deed of gift establishes and governs the legal relationship between donor and repository and the legal status of the materials.
  • The typical deed of gift identifies the donor, transfers legal ownership of the materials to the repository, establishes provisions for their use, specifies ownership of intellectual property rights in the materials, and indicates what the repository should do with unwanted materials.
  • The deed will specify a point in time (usually upon signing the deed or upon physical transfer of the material to the repository) when the materials become the legal property of the repository.
  • Unless you note to the contrary in the gift agreement, when you transfer legal ownership of your materials to the repository, you agree that the staff may make reformatting decisions.
  • Ownership of intellectual property rights (primarily copyright, but including trademarks and patent rights) may also be legally transferred by the deed of gift.
    • Donors are encouraged to transfer all rights they possess in and to the materials donated to the repository; this assists researchers in their scholarship by making it easier to quote from documents.
Notice that the deed of gift can transfer both legal ownership and intellectual property rights. Those transfers should be explicitly stated. Notice that when the legal ownership is transferred, then the repository can make decisions about "reformatting." Although the SAA guide does not say it explicitly, this would including digitization.

The deed of gift form can be your friend when you are receiving donations. Look at the samples that are online as well as the SAA guide. Then review your deed of gift form and see how you can make it better, so that you won't have questions in the future about what you can and cannot do with donated materials.

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