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Copyright is the exclusive legal right of the author or owner of an artistic, literary or musical work to copy, publish or perform their work, or to authorise its copying, etc.. Copyright lasts for a specific period depending on the kind of work, when it was produced and by whom.
Devon Heritage Services undertake to abide by the laws of copyright.
Archives and Copyright
Most archives are classed as literary or artistic works and so come under the laws of copyright. This means that they may not be used for publication without the copyright owner's consent. Moreover, there are limitations on the amount of copies that may be made from documents, and any copies that are made must be accompanied by a signed declaration stating that they are required for personal use or private research only.
Broadly speaking, most documents are deemed to be under copyright until at least 31 December 2039, though in fact the rules governing the duration of copyright on archives are more complex. There are different provisions for photographs and maps.
Exceptions to the Laws of Copyright
Parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials: these may be copied without completing a copyright declaration form.
Documents that come under Crown Copyright (works prepared under the direct control of the Crown or of a government department) and which were unpublished at the time of their deposit - for example tithe maps and apportionments and Quarter Sessions records - may be copied or published without formal permission.
A final point
The copying of documents includes the making of transcripts, tracings, etc.
For more information see The National Archives guide -
Tim Padfield. Copyright for Archivists and Users of Archives, The National Archives, 2001, or the information on the The National Archives website.