Many video collections have evolved without any clear collection policy. An important part of planning for a preservation program involves the complex areas of copyright, fair use and the ethical relationship between the collector and the works. It includes ascertaining the legal authority for the tapes you have. How did you acquire the work? Do you have written documentation which substantiates this? Were signed releases and clearances executed when the tape was produced? Do you have the legal right to duplicate or to exhibit the work? If so, under what circumstances?
Many states also have volunteer legal services to assist artists and arts organizations. New York State Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts is located in Manhattan. The Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts is a non-profit legal services organization founded in 1978 to provide legal help to the area's artists and cultural organizations. The site has a links and resources section with a list of all volunteer lawyers for the arts organizations in the United States as well as US Government offices.
The U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 and all subsequent amendments is available from the U.S. Copyright Office as a downloadable PDF file.
The following links provide extensive information about this important and complex area.
Conservation OnLine Copyright, intellectual property and ethics
Conservation OnLine Ethics and copyright
Library of Congress Copyright Office Circulars
Circular 1 - Copyright Basics
Circular 22 - How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work
Stanford University Libraries Copyright and fair use issues, with current legislation, and cases
Solving the Dilemma of Copyright Protection Online. The Journal of Electronic Publishing. December, 1997, Volume 3, Issue 2.
Who Owns What? Intellectual Property, Copyright, and the Next Millennium. The Journal of Electronic Publishing, March 1999, Vol. 4.
Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice. American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works