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Archiving Web Sites - Legal and Ethical Considerations

Q. What legal and ethical issues should I consider in web archiving?

Archiving websites is not as simple as collecting whatever web pages you want and saving them. There are a number of legal and ethical issues to consider as well. Archiving websites can involve complications with properties rights, privacy, content liability and human rights, and regulatory compliance and public accountability. 


Take action

  • Consider intellectual properties rights, privacy, content liability and human rights, and regulatory compliance and public accountability and their effect on your web archive
  • Write policies that reflect your institution's stance on these legal and ethical considerations


Review use cases




  • Charlesworth, Andrew.  "Legal issues relating to the archiving of Internet resources in the UK, EU, USA and Australia: A study undertaken for the JISC and Wellcome Trust."  Version 1.0.  February 25, 2003. 
    This paper examines the key legal issues of Web archiving in relation to the United Kingdom and how potential risks to a UK based web archive might be minimised.  It also surveys the approaches to web archiving taken in some other jurisdictions, including several EU countries, the U.S. and Australia.
  • Copyright Management Center. Indiana and Purdue Universities. []  The Copyright Management Center no longer exists. 
    Do you want this page of links from Indiana University instead? (CB)
  • Field, Tom.  "IP Basics: Copyright on the Internet." 
    This discussion addresses U.S. copyright issues of concern to those who post to or own email lists or host web pages.  It also deals with situations where someone might want to forward or archive another's email posting or to copy material from another's web page.
  • Glanville, Lachlan. "Web archiving: ethical and legal issues affecting programmes in Australia and the Netherlands" Australian Library Journal (2010).
    "This paper will examine the barriers faced by web archiving programmes in national libraries, such as the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in the Netherlands and the National Library of Australia's PANDORA. The report will analyse how these programmes deal with the difficulties and limitations inherent in such programmes by examining how they approach issues of selection, access and copyright, while drawing comparisons between the programmes of the two institutions and the legal frameworks in which they function. "
  • Harper, Georgia K.  "Copyright Crash Course."  University of Texas, 2007. 
    Includes sections on Own Manage Share, Building On Others' Creative Expression, Copyright in the Library, and University Administrative Interests.  Also includes an Online Tutorial  with 12 questions related to the information in the Web site.
  • Kavčič-Čolić, Alenka.  "Archiving the Web - some legal aspects."  68th IFLA Council and General Conference, Glasglow.  August 18-24, 2002. 
    The paper presents some legal aspects of archiving the web pages, concerning the harvesting, providing public access to them, and long-term preservation.
  • Minow, Mary.  "Copyright: What You Need to Know about Your Library's Web Page."  California Library Association.  Reprinted from California Libraries 10 no. 3 (2002).
    trouble getting this to open in order to annotate (CB)
  • Library of Congress. "United States Copyright Office."
    Provides links to copyright basics, FAQs, law and policy, etc.  Also includes a circular entitled "Copyright Registration for Online Works" at
  • Library of Congress.  Copyright Statement for the September 11 Web Archive.  Last updated August 5, 2011. 
    Includes an explanation of copyright restrictions for the Web sites included in the collection.
  • National Library of Australia.  "Preserving Access to Digital Information (PADI): Intellectual property rights management."  Last updated August 2000. 
    Provides background on copyright and preservation strategies, legislation, and access.  Includes annotated lists of Web sites on the following categories: Articles, Events, Organisations and Websites, Policies, Strategies & Guidelines, Project and Case Studies, Journals & Newsletters, Discussion Lists, and Surveys.
  • Rauber, Andreas, Max Kaiser, and Bernhard Wachter. "Ethical Issues in Web Archive Creation and Usage - Towards a Research Agenda." Paper presented at the International Web Archiving Workshop, Aaarhus, Denmark, September 18-19 2008.
  • Stanford University Libraries.  "Websites: Five ways to stay out of trouble."  2010.
    Because the Web is freely accessible and because of the ease of copying material from one site to another, many myths have developed regarding the right to use copyrighted materials and trademarks on the Web. Without repeating the copyright and trademark rules established in other chapters, this section provides five simple rules for your website.
  • Thelwall, Mike, and David Stuart. "Web Crawling Ethics Revisited: Cost, Privacy and Denial of Service." Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 57, no. 13 (2006): 1771-79.
    "Ethical aspects of the employment of web crawlers for information science research and other contexts are reviewed. The difference between legal and ethical uses of communications technologies is emphasized as well as the changing boundary between ethical and unethical conduct. A review of the potential impacts on web site owners is used to underpin a new framework for ethical crawling and it is argued that delicate human judgments are required for each individual case, with verdicts likely to change over time. Decisions can be based upon an approximate cost-benefit analysis, but it is crucial that crawler owners find out about the technological issues affecting the owners of the sites being crawled in order to produce an informed assessment."

Last updated on 08/26/13, 10:09 pm by callee


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