30 August 2013

LAC`s 2007 blunder

In 2007 LAC and Ancestry.com signed a continuing framework agreement regarding digitization of LAC content and making that content available through Ancestry servers.

A document just received under an Access to Information request shows that under the 2007 agreement Ancestry.com would maintain rights to the intellectual property and images in perpetuity. It would prohibit LAC from properly managing its own collection. LAC would give up the right to manage document images, including of the census ... in perpetuity.

This was a blunder. Although the significance of online access may not have been so obvious in 2007, and similar organizations in other countries made the same blunder, in no way should the government have given up perpetual rights to images of a major Canadian collection, like the census, to a commercial organization, and a US one at that.

Several people and organizations have expressed concern about arrangements between Canadiana.ca and LAC regarding the former being granted exclusive rights to host images of documents owned by the latter. We have been ensured these are time-limited arrangements that would make images, not otherwise likely to be available online, widely available. Given the 2007 rights blunder by LAC there is cause to be cautious.

To rectify the situation with Ancestry.com in August 2012 LAC started negotiation of a new agreement. This was successful. In addition the agreement encompassed rights to as many as 11 other collections including the 1921 census with a three year period of exclusivity. Agreement in principle was reached in September but it took until 23 May this year for the lawyers to finally conclude a mutually acceptable legal text which was signed at the end of May.

To what extent was granting this access to Ancestry.com dictated by the need to rectify the previous error? Is LAC now free to make census and other document images available to other organizations?


GenealogyInTime Magazine said...

Well done John. Excellent research on your part. Finally, we have some light on the situation.

We are posting a link on our website to your article.

GenealogyInTime Magazine

M.C. Moran said...

"In perpetuity"?! Wow, that was a pretty serious blunder.

Does Canadian copyright law even recognize a right to hold intellectual property "in perpetuity"? and for Crown/government documents and images no less?

I suspect LAC never had the legal right to grant a perpetual copyright to a third party in the first place. That is, I suspect the 2007 agreement was never legal and binding under Canadian law -- which might help explain why LAC was able to negotiate a new agreement in 2012?

In any case, great research, John.

Holly Stick said...

Who signed the 2007 agreement? Does the document you received show who at LAC was involved in negotiating it?

JDR said...

I've not seen a copy of the 2007, just a briefing note refering to it. However, bureaucracy is pretty good at distributing the responsibility by the signer getting buy in from senior levels. Where would the buck stop in that case?