In May we began our rights management peer support programme in collaboration with Collections Trust. It was formed out of the historical ‘copyright forum’ which we jointly ran in the South West and had changed format and remit throughout the years – especially during the pandemic.  

For 2023/24 we collectively decided to develop a programme to tackle the main challenges we were experiencing through the forum. Namely, developing a rights management policy and procedure to underpin the day to day decision making, processes and risk associated with copyright within museum collections.  

We’re currently one workshop in and wanted to share with you what we are working on and the associated resources should you want to begin (or revise) your own museum’s approach to rights management 

What does the programme look like? 

There are seven museums taking part across the South West who applied through an expression of interest application in April. Two people from each museum are taking part to support the discussions and practical application between the workshops.  

It being run as a peer support programme with the emphasis not being on direct training but on working together to discuss challenges, share practice and implement change.  

As part of the call out we stipulated that this would not be copyright training but rather sharing the tools to develop rights management policy and procedures and build confidence in this area of collections management and rights usages. 

Consisting of three sessions across the period (two online and one in-person) and allowing a good amount of space across summer as it is the busiest period for museum delivery. 

  • May (online) – Rights Management Policy development with a focus on ‘Rights in’ 
  • June (online) – Rights Management Procedure development (including orphan works and risk management)  
  • Autumn (in-person) sharing day and looking at ‘Rights out’  

Between the sessions we have established practical work to do at the museum to start to implement the guidance from the sessions.  

The museums taking part 

  • Axminster Heritage Centre 
  • Bristol Museum & Art Gallery 
  • Glastonbury Abbey 
  • Museum of Gloucester 
  • SS Great Britain Trust 
  • Swindon Museums  
  • Young Gallery 

I’ve missed the programme but am interested in undertaking this for our museum – where do I start? 

A Rights Management Policy and Procedure is integral for your museum and for your confidence in handling copyright within your museum collections and digital assets.  This timely article on the importance of Intellectual Property policies from Naomi Korn advocates for this.  

“With an IP policy and procedures in place, an organisation can ensure compliance with current legislation and that its management of IP is consistent and in line with its culture, values and strategic goals.” 

The article highlights the risks posed to organisations that publish third party content online including an example from 2012: Uckfield Community Technical College was ordered to pay a fine of £23,000 for making copyright materials available on its website in breach of an existing licence. 

So, where to start with creating your own rights management policy? 

  1. Become familiar with Collections Trust’s Rights Management section of Spectrum – this is a great foundation for understanding how this can sit within your wider collections management frameworks
  2. For creating a rights management policy you can start by looking at these questions on the Collections Trust website to outline what you are trying to achieve
  3. Then we have a rights management policy template on our website as a helpful starting point 
  4. Contact us via our enquiry form if you have any questions and keep an eye out for Collections Trust webinars