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The Australian National University

The Pacific Manuscripts Bureau Copyright Policy

This document outlines the Pacific Manuscript’s Bureau (PMB) policy on copyright.  The Pacific Manuscripts Bureau copies archives, manuscripts and rare printed material relating to the Pacific Islands. The aim of the Bureau is to help with long-term preservation of the documentary heritage of the Pacific Islands and to make it accessible.  For the purposes of copyright, the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau is an “archive” in that it is defined as a collection of material of historical significance or public interest, being maintained for the purpose of conserving and preserving the material. The Pacific Manuscripts Bureau is a non-profit organization.

The Pacific Manuscripts Bureau member libraries and researchers using the PMB collections need to know about this copyright policy. 

The Pacific Manuscripts Bureau has a copyright policy because authors or creators of unpublished documents such as letters, manuscripts, organisational records, photographs and slides are protected by copyright legislation. 

Duration of copyright
The current rule in Australia for the duration of copyright in material in a published work is 70 years after the death of the creator, or, where the creator is unknown, 70 years after the work was first published. However, if the material was never published, such as the manuscripts and archival documents that the Bureau copies, its copyright does not expire even if its creator died more than 70 years ago. Photographs taken prior to 1 January 1955 are out of copyright, otherwise the duration of copyright for photographs is the life of the “author” (or creator) + 70 years.

The Bureau copies unpublished materials for research and preservation purposes
Copyright law allows copies of manuscripts and other original versions to be made for the purposes of research (i.e. permission to quote or publish must be obtained from the copyright holder) or for the purpose of the care and management of a collection (e.g. preservation purposes). 

The PMB adheres to the copyright law of the Pacific Island country in which the document is located and copied.  If there is no copyright law for a Pacific Island country, the PMB will take a good faith approach.

In addition to the copyright laws of the Pacific Island country in which the copy is made, the PMB adheres to the copyright laws of Australia, where the Bureau sometimes copy archives and where copies are made available to PMB Member Libraries for research.

The Pacific Manuscripts Bureau risk management approach to copying archival documents that are protected by copyright

The Bureau always tries to seek permission before copying unpublished documents.
There may be times when the PMB is unable to trace the copyright or seek permission from each and every copyright owner of a document before copying it, or when the costs of doing so clearly outweigh the benefit of preserving and making the archive available for research purposes. 

The following points explain the PMB’s risk management approach to copying unpublished archival documents that are protected by copyright.

  1. The PMB is a non-commercial and not-for-profit organization.  The PMB works to preserve documents and improve access to knowledge about the Pacific.  The PMB does not make any profit from the copying of archival collections.
  2. The copying and distribution of archives is limited to the PMB Member Libraries (and other individuals who purchase the titles from the PMB on a cost-recovery basis) and is unlikely to have any commercial impact on the owner of the document.
  3. The copying and limited distribution of the archive does not unreasonably prejudice the copyright owner, (i.e. the copying will not take away money from the copyright holder.)
  4. The PMB makes reasonable efforts to contact the original owners of the archives in order to gain permission to copy the archival collections. 
  5.  The PMB provides the owners or custodians of materials with an information sheet, “Information for owners or custodians of materials to be copied”, explaining how the PMB will copy the documents, the distribution of the copy, access restrictions and copyright information.
  6. The PMB keeps a paper trail of correspondence with owners or custodians of archival collections giving the Bureau permission to reformat and distribute the reformatted materials.
  7. The PMB places a copyright notice at the start of all PMB titles.
  8. The PMB clearly acknowledges the author of documents and the owner or custodian of the archive.
  9. The PMB will seek permission from the owner or custodian of an archive to “format shift” a microfilm version of an archive that was copied by the Bureau in the past to a digital version for distribution to the PMB member libraries via the Bureau’s online catalogue.


Reference source:

Please contact the Executive Officer of the Bureau if you have any questions regarding copyright.



Charles Hunter Brown diary extract
Page from the diary of Mr Charles Hunter Brown. Hunter Brown was a NZ layperson and this is his journal accompanying the Bishop John Richardson Selwyn on the “Southern Cross”. See PMB 1359 Reel 1 Item 28.

Updated:  21 March 2016/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific /Page Contact: