I am happy to announce the launch of ‘Archives, Ethics and the Law in India’, an open-access publication published by the Archives at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore. This publication is intended to be a guidebook for archivists, on the intersecting questions of ethics and law that they routinely face in the course of their practice.
The guidebook is one of the outputs of a larger project at the Archives at NCBS, which examines the intersections of law, ethics and archives in India, and is intended to indicate how archivists should consider questions of access to archives to researchers in an equitable and ethical manner, and after due consideration of legal issues.
The guidebook considers various aspects where archival practice intersects with the law – from the accessioning and acquisition of physical records, to the reproduction of copyrighted material in order to make important historical documents available to researchers and the wider public. It also considers questions of data protection law and privacy, as well as the right to information and the regulation of public archives in India.
The guidebook also lays out a code of ethics for archivists, co-produced by archivists from around India, and lays out principles which can guide ethical archival practice, including thinking through questions of accountability, community and donor relations, preservation and care, access, descriptions and professionalism.
Of particular interest to readers of this blog would be the chapters on copyright law and its implications for archival practice. In the course of writing this guidebook, I had the opportunity to look more deeply into how copyright law conceives of archives and archiving as a practice. Readers would find some interesting, and often ignored legal provisions highlighted in the guidebook – for example, the only ‘clear’ exception to copyright for archival purposes is for capturing certain broadcasts of ‘exceptional documentary character’. The guidebook also goes into some detail on a conundrum that has been debated on this blog before, that of the status of the unpublished work, which is of particular significance to archivists.
I hope this guidebook can be useful for professional archivists as well as any persons interested more broadly in archiving in the public interest, including creating and maintaining digital archives (on which there is a separate section of the book). It may also be useful for lawyers to critically reflect upon the role of the law in maintaining equitable access to archives in India. Please do send your comments and feedback to me at divij[dot]joshi[at]gmail[dot]com.