The Wellcome Library holds one of the world’s most important collections relating to the history of human and animal health. As part of our mission, we are committed to making these collections freely available to users, both through our reading rooms and online.
Before making material available online, the Wellcome Library endeavours to mitigate risk of damage to third parties by checking the copyright status of material wherever feasible, and, where possible, contacting rights-holders for permission to make material available; and carrying out risk assessments to identify sensitive and/or personal data, in accordance with our Access to Archives policy [PDF 278KB].
In addition, we also take the following steps to further reduce the risk to rights-holders and/or individuals:
- Access to certain types of digital content on our website may require users to agree to terms and conditions of use, and/or require registration with the Wellcome Library.
- Archive material less than 100 years old will normally be available on a non-commercial basis only (unless permission has been given for commercial use) or may be subject to other restrictions imposed by rights-holders.
- Archive material less than 10 years old won’t be made available online.
The terms and conditions of use of all digital content are made clear to users at point of access.
Clearing copyright for digitised collections
To provide researchers with online access to material relating to key developments in modern bioscience we are digitising some books, archives and other material which are still in copyright. We have used a ‘best endeavours’ approach to obtaining permission to make these collections available.
For example, for printed books we have worked with the Author’s Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and the Publisher’s Licensing Society (PLS), who provided a diligent search service to help identify rights-holders. Where copyright holders could be traced, they have been contacted in order to seek the necessary permissions.
In some cases it has been extremely difficult to identify all potential copyright holders. This is particularly the case for archive material, most of which consists of unpublished documents and which is often in manuscript form (handwritten letters or notebooks, for example). Names may be illegible or missing, may be impossible to identify securely or trace, or the current copyright owner may simply be unknown. For this type of material, we have made all reasonable efforts to ensure copyright holders’ interests are respected and permission sought where it is feasible to do so. However, we cannot guarantee to have traced or contacted every potential rights-holder.
In order to reduce the risk to rights-holders, all potentially in-copyright material that we have put online is made available under a non-commercial licence. Furthermore, all of our online collections are subject to a takedown policy. If we are contacted by a potential rights-holder we will remove the material in question from our website until we have been able to assess the case, and if appropriate we will ensure the material is removed temporarily or permanently from our website as appropriate. This also applies to cases in which rights-holders who have previously given permission wish to retract it for any reason.
To contact us about removal of material, please email our Digital Services team at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to us at the following address:
183 Euston Road
London NW1 2BE, UK
In making material available online the Wellcome Library acts in good faith. However, despite these safeguards, we recognise that from time to time material published online may be in breach of copyright, contain sensitive personal data, or include content that is obscene or defamatory. On receipt of a request to takedown material from our websites, the Wellcome Library will respond by immediately removing the material in question. Requests will then be assessed by a review panel who will consider each request on its merits. The panel will aim to respond definitively within four weeks, but may require additional time to seek external advice where appropriate.
The panel may approve continued withdrawal of the material if one or more of the following criteria is met:
- The material is in copyright, and the copyright-holder refuses permission for it to be made available online.
- The material is personal information about someone who is still alive and continued online access would be unlawful or unfair to him under the Data Protection Act or would breach his or his family’s right to a private and family life under the Human Rights Act 1998.
- The material is personal information about a deceased individual that requires closure or restriction in accordance with the Wellcome Library’s Personal Data Policy.
- The material is defamatory or obscene.
- The material acquires sensitivity by virtue of being made available online.
All takedowns will be signalled openly on this website.
Where material is removed for reasons of Data Protection or sensitivity, its removal will be considered as temporary and will be restored at a date decided by the Panel once its sensitivity is deemed to have subsided. Where material is removed for reasons of copyright, its removal will be considered as lasting until such time as copyright in the material expires, or until the rights-holder agrees that the material can be reinstated.