Legal and Ethical Issues
Each oral history accepted into an archive must be accompanied by a legal agreement acknowledging the transaction and clarifying certain other conditions. Since interviewer-narrator relationships, the goals of oral history projects, and the institutions they represent are all unique, each institution must draft legal papers specific to its own requirements. Creators of a work automatically secure copyright at the point of creation. In the case of oral histories, this happens as soon as the recorder is turned off. Transferring copyright to the archive makes it convenient for future users to access and quote from these works without tracking down the original creators to get permission. Accessioning oral histories into the archive without the proper legal papers not only violates the standards of the oral history and the archives professions, but it may subject the archive and its parent institution to legal liability.