The Deed of Gift Form (Part II)

In the first post about Deeds of Gift, I discussed the initial elements of a deed and how making such a donation is a legal transfer of ownership. 

In the sections below, additional areas of the form are explored.  Most importantly, transfer of copyright is crutial for both the donor and the repository.

Access to the Collection*

An essential mission of repositories is to make their collections open and available for research use. They are able to do this because most donors do not limit access to the materials they donate. There may be instances, however, when a donor or repository feels it is appropriate to restrict access to all or a portion of the materials for a limited and clearly stated period of time.

If the materials you donate contain student records, income tax records, medical records or legal case files relating to third parties (that is, to individuals other than you or your immediate ancestors, or to organizations other than the one whose records are being donated), federal or state privacy laws may apply. If you know that such materials exist, bring this to the attention of the repository representative.

If such materials are discovered by the repository during cataloging, the repository representative will discuss them with you. If your concerns go beyond these types of materials, explain them to the representative, and be as specific as possible when you discuss the papers or records you want to restrict.

If needed, the representative will work with you to arrive at lan- guage regarding the restriction that is acceptable to you and which can be enforced by the repository.

Transfer of Copyright

When you sign the gift agreement, you transfer legal ownership of the actual materials you want to donate. Ownership of intellectual property rights (primarily copyright, but including trade- marks and patent rights) may also be legally transferred by the deed of gift.

Copyright generally belongs to the creator of writings or other original material (such as photographs and music). Donors are encouraged to transfer all rights they possess in and to the materials donated to the repository; this assists researchers in their scholarship by making it easier to quote from documents.

If you wish to retain all or a portion of the intellectual property rights you own, you may include such a provision in the deed of gift, but you and the representative should agree upon a date after which the rights will be transferred to the repository.

You are not able to transfer ownership of rights to the works of others found in the materials you donate. These works might include such items as letters written to you by others.


In the course of arranging and describing the materials you donate, the repository’s staff will retain substantive materials of permanent historic value and separate out those materials that are routine, duplicative, or outside the collecting scope of the repository. The repository needs guidance in dealing with these separated materials.

You may choose to have the repository dispose of them in the manner they deem appropriate. This usually includes shredding or disposing of duplicates or materials of no historical significance, and transferring out-of-scope materials to another unit within the repository or to another repository.

You may, however, prefer to have the separations returned directly to you. You should discuss your options with the repository’s representative and arrive at an agreement that can be stated in the deed of gift.

Other Elements

Repositories vary widely in the kinds of materials they collect, the users they serve, and the facilities in which they preserve materials and make them available for research. As a result, a repository may require or permit the deed of gift to contain language related to a wide range of other issues.

If you have any questions or concerns about what is or is not included in a deed of gift, it is important that you raise these with the repository representative prior to signing the agreement.

Although it is possible that a repository may not be able to accommodate a specific request, it is best to ensure that all relevant issues are discussed.

*Copied from The Society of American Archivists brochure “A Guide to Deeds of Gift” c. 2002.

Published in: on January 27, 2010 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

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