Legal Matters

Community groups with archives are expected to comply with copyright and data protection laws. These can be quite complex and it can be difficult to work out what this means for individual documents, photographs, sound recordings, works of art or other items in your collections. It is important to not that you do not necessarily hold copyright because you hold the item.

This section provides a basic guide to copyright and a video guide to the practical steps you can take to be able to deal with copyright; and a basic guide to data protection. There are also a range of templates that you can adapt to your needs.


SCA has a series of webinars and downloadable guidance on copyright, which can be found by clicking here.

The best up-to-date guide is Tim Padfield Copyright for Archivists and Records Managers (London: Facet Publishing, 2019). Padfield explains very clearly the copyright concepts and has a good index which helps you find the information you need for specific queries and issued. Padfield also has a very useful set of flowcharts which explain the duration of copyright.

Online Resources:

The National Archives: Guidance for Copyright

UK Government: Copyright information

UK Government’s Copyright notice on digital images, photographs and the internet

Tate: A Brief Guide to Copyright

You can read all the legislation on copyright and related rights on the UK legislation website by clicking here.

Data Protection & GDPR

TNA guide on archives and data protection law in the UK

Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) Guidance on GDPR for organisations

Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) Guidance on lawful basis