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Copyright and Data Protection law

Archives consist largely of unpublished material, and most unpublished documents remain in copyright until at least 2039. This means that there are restrictions on how the contents of most archives can be used and reproduced by researchers.


Depending on their condition, copies of most documents can be supplied for private study and non-commercial research purposes.

See the Imaging Service web pages for information about ordering images.

Self-service photography of most archive material is also permitted in the Special Collections Reading Rooms, for private research purposes only.

If you wish to reproduce images of archival material for publication, you must order high-resolution images of the documents you require using our imaging service. You will also need to obtain permission from the copyright holder in the material.

The copyright holder is usually the author of a document or their heirs. In almost all cases, the Library does not own the copyright of unpublished archive material. The WATCH database is a useful resource for tracking down the copyright holders of writers and artists.

In addition, you also need to obtain permission to publish from the Library. Visit our image permissions page for more information, or contact the Heritage Imaging Team,

Data Protection Law

The Library holds many recent and contemporary archives which contain information about living people. These are subject to the Data Protection law, which means that some of the documents they contain may be closed to researchers. In the case of catalogued archives, information about closures usually appears in the relevant Elgar catalogue entry.

Requests for access to modern (post-1914) archives must be made well in advance of your visit, so that an archivist can check the material and decide whether it can be made available.

If you wish to consult modern archives in the Reading Rooms, or receive copies of modern archive material remotely, you will be asked to sign a Data Protection Declaration Form and to abide by the relevant Data Protection principles in your research.