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date: 23 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Oral history has become a research tool in virtually every country in the world. While the vast majority of oral history programs have not and likely never will be confronted with a lawsuit, the implementation of legally and ethically sound procedures are the best ways to insure that this does not happen. All oral historians should make themselves familiar with the legal issues that relate to the practice of oral history, such as legal release agreements, challenges to interview restrictions, defamation, the privacy torts, copyright, the Internet, and institutional review board. The focus of this article is American law, but the issues discussed is relevant to oral historians from other nations and encourage practitioners to consider how their own legal systems address them. The memories that an interviewer records begin as the intellectual property of the interviewee. People own the copyright to their words. The importance of various legal documents pertaining to oral history is presented in detail.

Keywords: oral history, lawsuit, legal release agreements, American law, intellectual property

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