The Library maintains a number of collections containing rare and unique materials. Often these collections contain a mix of published and unpublished material.

In order to facilitate access, copying and publishing,  current practice is to ask people being recorded or interviewed  to complete a rights agreement which sets out agreed access conditions under which a library patron may access or make use of the recordings and their content.

Oral History and Folklore (OH&F) staff will refer first to these rights agreements when determining how you may use material in a particular collection.  OH&F staff will make contact and mediate permissions with interviewees as required.

The following is a summary of the most commonly requested information about rights in the Oral History and Folklore Collection.

Ownership and access

The OH&F collection is comprised largely of unpublished unique interviews and other audio recordings.  There are a bundle of rights associated with these unpublished unique interviews and other audio recordings as well as the associated summaries and transcripts, both legal and moral.  In most cases the Library acquires the rights in these recordings, but allows the interviewee to control their use.

Normal copyright law applies to the few published materials in our collection, such as our early radio broadcasts and commercial cassette recordings.

For the purposes of access the Library refers to the instructions of the person interviewed as the primary Rights holder. Access is determined primarily by them, or by the Library on their behalf, or in accordance with their wishes. In some special circumstances, the interviewer may also exercise some control.

People recorded for our collection can impose a range of access conditions on their material – the most common access conditions are:

  • Access open for research, personal copies and public use.
  • Access open for research and personal copies; written permission required for public use.
  • Access open for research, written permission required for personal copies and public use.
  • Written permission for research use, personal copies and public use.


If you wish to publish material from the Library's Oral History and Folklore Collection, you will need to declare your intention to the Library as custodian of the material and if the interviewee has imposed any access conditions on their interview material you will need to declare your intention to the interviewee as well.

If written permission is required from the interviewee,  Oral History and Folklore staff will send your declaration to the interviewees so that they can decide whether to allow you access to and/or publish their material.

If the Library holds the Rights in the material, then you need to complete a permission to publish form and return it to Oral History and Folklore section. 

When you publish any part of the Oral History and Folklore Collection include an accompanying citation which acknowledges the National Library as custodian, and includes the name of the interviewee, name of the interviewer, date, collection number and the words 'National Library of Australia'.