UOSH changes the law!

Posted on by Lauren MacCarthy.

by Katie Scaife, project manager, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage, Bristol Archives

Unlocking Our Sound Heritage started off with many laudable aims, but changing the law of the land came as a surprise!

One of our main aims for Unlocking Our Sound Heritage (UOSH) is to preserve archival audio recordings for the future. We do this by transferring the audio into digital form. Often you hear about how we SHOULDN’T be copying audio (think of music) as it infringes copyright law. However, in much of the UK copying for preservation purposes is legal.

Imagine our surprise when we learned it wasn’t the case everywhere!

Clipping from the Guernsey Press in August 2020

Clipping from the Guernsey Press, 26 August 2020. Courtesy Island Archives.

The Bailiwick of Guernsey, it turns out, has its own copyright laws. When we contacted the Island Archives to see if we could digitise their audio archives, the team advised that as much as that sounded a good idea, it was against their law.

But, not to be put off, they indefatigably began the process to get copyright law changed in Guernsey. The Island Archives was keen to be able to preserve their collections digitally and UOSH has provided a happy incentive to prompt the conversation. The Committee for Economic Development and the Law Officers supported them significantly in this process.

After due consideration, we’re pleased to say the States of Guernsey voted in favour of amending the Copyright (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Ordinance in August 2020.

Now UOSH and Island Archives have one final hurdle to overcome in order to digitise the collections: finding a way to safely deliver the materials to Bristol during Covid-19 restrictions. But given what’s been accomplished so far, we’re sure we’ll be able to figure this out.

We’re looking forward to digitising these unique collections in early 2021. The splendid collections at Island Archives feature recorded interviews covering subjects such as the German Occupation of Guernsey during World War II, the growing industry, maritime history, and Guernsey French. 


Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is a national project led by the British Library and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Find out more about the project.

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