Category Archives: Legal

Legal Issues in an Online Repository

Because it is a digital repository with no physical counterpart, the Jewish Women’s Archive faces a number of unique legal situations. The JWA addresses legal concerns in two different areas of its website: its terms of use and its privacy policy. The JWA Privacy Policy addresses the legal issues surrounding the collection of user information such as IP addresses and personal information provided voluntarily by users responding to surveys, adding content, commenting or communicating with the JWA. The more pertinent information related to digital stewardship and management concerns can be found in the Terms of Use.

The terms of use primarily concern copyright issues. The terms of use specify that site content, defined as “all text, images, marks, logos and other content of the website”, is protected by copyright law, and that it may only be downloaded, printed or used in personal, non-commercial and/or educational contexts. While the terms of use do not provide specific guidelines on what constitutes personal, non-commercial or educational use, it does stipulate that even these uses are only permissible if the JWA is properly credited or cited. These seem to be fairly typical terms of use but their vagueness may be a somewhat intentional response to the fluid, always-changing nature of the digital environment.

Because the JWA does not hold physical archival materials, its collections and exhibitions are mostly a result of either digitization projects or crowdsourcing. This raises a number of other potential issues because the JWA does not hold copyright on some of its material. All such material has been marked or noted, and the JWA addresses potential copyright violations in this context by putting the onus on the user to get permission from copyright holders to use this material. It also provides recourse for copyright holders who believe that their material has been used or credited incorrectly on the JWA website, asking these copyright holders to contact the JWA by phone or email with any concerns.

The terms of use also clearly state that although the Jewish Women’s Archive is an online archive, accessible to users all over the world, it is based in Brookline, Massachusetts and is therefore governed by the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as well as those of the United States.

The JWA’s Terms of Use are succinct and easily-comprehensible to laypersons. Although many of the issues covered by the terms of use–copyright, for example–are familiar to managers and users of traditional physical repositories, in the digital environment they are sometimes complicated by issues of jurisdiction, ease of reproduction and proprietary distinctions.