Digitizing 35mm slides

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  • We have thousands of 35mm slides associated with medical issues, about 50% are still being used for educational purposes. The slides can be divided into two sets, those we purchased from a publisher and those put together by a faculty member.

    The slides from the publisher are no longer available in slide format. They are not available in DVD format. We are wondering if we could digitize the slides and make the images available to our students and faculty. If we can do this, should access be through a secured site -- that is the student or faculty member has to log in to the site?

    The other slides were compiled by various instructors for their class. The slides do not indicate ownership. Most of the instructors are no longer with our institution. Can we digitize these slides as they are associated with a class? Ditto on putting the images in a secured site?

    Lastly, we have some instructors who have compiled their own private sets of slides. They are requesting the slides be digitized so they may use them in their classroom. The instructors are also requesting the images be available to their students only, access would be through a secured site that only students of the class can log in. Is this permitted? Again, we don't know the source of the slides.

    Thank you. I look forward to your replies.

    Joel Shedlofsky
  • Joel,

    I am not a lawyer, but here's my take on the situation(s)...

    1. For the slides purchased from publishers you should contact the publisher for permission to digitize the slides. Copyright for images is very complicated, and just because it's an image of an object in the public domain (the Mona Lisa, for example) doesn't mean that the image itself is in the public domain. Even if you restrict access, use for educational purposes, etc., you still may be violating terms of an agreement or copyright.

    2. For the slides left behind by departed faculty, it's probably safest to try to contact the faculty member for permission to digitize his/her slides. I would imagine, however, that if you cannot find the faculty member it's probably safe to digitize these images. Under the four factors of fair use (purpose, nature, amount, and effect), it seems that using the slides for educational purposes on an access-restricted site would qualify.

    3. The instructors who have compiled their own sets of slides may or may not be the copyright owners of the images. If they took the slides themselves, then they can copy them, digitize them, etc (assuming no other laws get in the way). I think that the instructor could use the digital image of a slide from his/her own computer in the classroom, post it to a network, etc. I don't see why a school couldn't facilitate the activities by putting the digitized images on a secure server. You may want to ask the instructor to sign something accepting all responsibility for copyright liability should the slides turn out to be copyrighted by a third party.

    I think there's a member of the Copyright Advisory Network who knows more about audio-visual material, so maybe she'll jump in here to provide more information...

    Good luck,
  • I agree with all of JMiller's observations about the copyright status of this material. The Visual Resources Association has copyright guidelines that may also be worth a read: , they both provide definitions for "legally acquired" and a discussion of the possibilities for digital delivery (see section C., "Display"). Assuming the purchase of the items in Group 1 were not governed by a license, you seem to have legally acquired them according to the parameters VRA sets forth. Group 2 sounds like a gift, though without any documentation about the source or the terms of acquisition you may always be in a grey area on this set. Group 3 are what we call personal copies; you should clarify with the instructor whether they are becoming the property of the library or remaining the property of the instructor so that you know what to do with them when the term concludes. The key question, then, is whether your institution would make a fair use argument for digitizing these materials and delivering them via a secure system to students in a particular course. We DO do this at my institution for the classes of works you've described.

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