B.C. Archives’ high licensing costs is limiting public engagement with the museum’s wealth of historical records, according to a report from the Friends of BC Archives.
“People who want to use already digitized material from the archives in a non-commercial way should not be charged a fee for that,” said Kelly Black, president of the non profit.
While digital access to archival collection is free, a teacher using a image for a classroom presentation must obtain a license from B.C. Archives for $25.
Reproduction costs and publication rights run up to $500 per file.
“Among the 13 institutions that comprise the national, provincial, and territorial archives of Canada, only four institutions charge a user fee,” the report states.
“If a private business in Victoria wants to use an image to advertise something that they’re selling, then certainly we could understand the fee would be higher,” Black said. However, he added that the B.C. Archives should take some time to reevaluate their fee structure overall.
The report recommends waiving all fees for non-commercial use of digitized items and a reevaluation of licensing fees for commercial use of digitized items within this year.
People are missing out on information because of the high costs, Black said.
When someone publishes a local history book for Langford, for example, the publishers tend to pass the licensing costs down to the author, which, for a set of ten images, can range from “hundreds if not thousands of dollars,” he added.
“Instead they choose not to use those images because they can’t afford to pay the fees, and so people later who go to read a local history book about Langford then aren’t presented with the stories that those images or materials can tell.”
David Alexander, head of the Archives said the costs help generate revenue for the museum, which has to make up for 46 per cent of its operating costs from revenue and philanthropic donations.
Alexander said costs to provide reproductions and licenses are reviewed each year, and were modeled after what “similar organizations are doing across the country.”
“Next year, when we look at the fee structure again and do a survey of what are doing, we will consider the report as well,” he said.