Intellectual Property and Ethical Issues - The EVIA Digital Archive Project

Intellectual Property and Ethical Issues

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John McDowell interviews the Picuasi Dancers at Yahuar Cocha near Otavalo, Ecuador, 2005. Image © Patricia Glushko.

As a nonprofit educational organization devoted to the creation, discovery, and dissemination of knowledge in the ethnographic disciplines, the EVIA Digital Archive Project is committed to complying with all applicable laws regarding intellectual property. EVIA Project holdings are copyright protected and will be accessible through subscription by universities and colleges throughout the world. Individuals not affiliated with an institute of higher education will be able to request access.

Two primary challenges of making EVIA Project materials available online have been insuring that efforts (1) follow ethical considerations and (2) do not break any copyright laws. Both areas are open to interpretation and can present significant roadblocks to research and educational uses. From the beginning of its planning phase, the EVIA Project has consulted with lawyers and experts in ethnographic ethics with the aim of charting a course that addresses these concerns while moving forward.

Ethical considerations are handled primarily by individual depositors, based on (a) their arrangements with their primary consultants regarding consent and permission and (b) their concern for materials they do not wish to make public. While guidelines for ethical ethnographic research behavior have been around for many years, the methods of gathering permissions for recordings have varied widely in the decades since video technology has been employed as part of fieldwork. Many scholars have made video recordings for their own research use but have not considered making the recordings publically available. Indeed, it has been only in the last few years that distribution of video via the Internet has been conceivable. In some cases, EVIA Project depositors reconnect with consultants and obtain the explicit permissions they need. In other cases, the passage of time or the disruption of communities by warfare make it impossible to locate consultants. Depositors must rely in such cases on their relationships with the individuals or communities in question and their understanding of what would be appropriate to make public.

From a legal viewpoint we must address the issue of providing access to copyrighted materials. Because our use is educational and because we do not foresee having significant negative impact on commercial demand for copyrighted materials that appear in these videos, we are operating under the conditions of Fair Use as described under U.S. copyright law and followed by Berne Convention nations. Legal and ethical issues are addressed in a permissions contract that depositors must accept before their materials can be published online.

Users must digitally "sign" an End User License Agreement that describes their responsibilities and the restrictions on uses of the material. Furthermore, depositors control which portions of their video recordings may be publically accessed. Because we take the approach of archival preservation, we transfer entire video recordings and not just portions of them. However, many field recordings contain a mix of footage types, and portions may need to be restricted while other parts can be made available. Our solution is to allow depositors through the annotation process to block public access to content segments containing politically, culturally, personally, or religiously sensitive material, or copyrighted material that does not fit within our provisions of Fair Use.

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