Primary Landing Page


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The Pacific Manuscripts Bureau has a copyright policy because authors or creators of unpublished documents such as letters, manuscripts, organisational records, photographs and slides are protected by copyright legislation.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 Australian Copyright Act has been amended several times, meaning different rules apply to the duration of different copyright materials. The most recent amendment regarding duration came into effect on 1 January 2019, which changed the rules on copyright duration for unpublished works. The amendments introduced a new standard term of protection for all copyright materials – both published and unpublished – which, as a general rule, is the life of the creator plus 70 years. As the amendments came into effect on 1 January 2019, work not made public before this date will expire 70 years after the death of the creator, regardless of when it was first made public. There are exceptions to this rule, particularly if the creator is unknown. Photographs taken prior to 1 January 1955 are out of copyright, otherwise the duration of copyright for photographs is the life of the creator plus 70 years. It is the responsibility of the user to determine copyright status and restrictions. The Department of Communication and the Arts provides an excellent resource for determining duration of copyright under Australian law, which is available here. Different countries have different copyright laws. Researchers need to be aware of copyright laws in the jurisdiction in which they work and publish.

Unpublished Materials

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.

Risk Management Approach

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.