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Safe Custody and Copyright of Parish Records and Memorials in Burial Grounds

Safe Custody and Copyright of Parish Records and Memorials in Burial Grounds

A new set of Guidelines for the Safe Custody and Copyright of Parish Records and Memorials in Burial Grounds has been issued. Recent situations involving copying and/or publication of parish registers and other records held locally, as well as memorials in burial grounds, have prompted this action.

The Guidelines will be issued to every member of the clergy, parish secretary and diocesan secretary in coming days, aiming to: assist members of the clergy and select vestries with the care and custody of records held in parishes; and raise awareness about the legal restrictions in place concerning copyright in the text of parish records and in inscriptions on memorials, with particular reference to publishing such data on the internet or in printed formats. The Guidelines are also available through the Parish Resources section of the Church of Ireland website: www.ireland.anglican.org/parish–resources/select–vestry

The Guidelines provide succinct practical information about the care of and copyright governing three key sources of data created in parishes: the registers (of baptism, marriage and burial); the vestry minutes and related parish records, as well as inscriptions on memorials in burial grounds. Acknowledging previous generations who have created and kept records safe, the document urges parishes to be aware that both the written records and the data inscribed on memorial stones in burial grounds, are subject to copyright. No matter how well intended a local initiatives might be publication of data, or photographs of same, are restricted.

Taking the parish registers, for example, copyright in all registers of baptism, marriage and burial, up to and including 1871, resides with the relevant state. In Northern Ireland, copyright in registers of baptisms and burials up to 1871 and marriages before 1845 is subject to the Public Records Act (Northern Ireland), 1923. In the Republic of Ireland, copyright in registers of baptisms and burials up to 1871, and marriages before 1845 is subject to the National Archives (Ireland) Act, 1986. All post–1845 registers of Church of Ireland marriages are subject to the Civil Registration Act, 2004 in the Republic of Ireland and the Marriage (Northern Ireland) Order, 2003 in Northern Ireland. Copyright of data in all registers of baptisms and burials from 1871 onwards is held by The Representative Church Body, subject to the regulations in the Constitution of the Church of Ireland. Thus carte blanche photography of registers is prohibited: any electronic recording of images requires the appropriate permission from the relevant copyright holder, and any breach is subject to prosecution.

The Guidelines also provide practical advice on the keeping of with vestry records and related parish records; and finally memorials in burial grounds – strongly recommending that neither images nor details of inscriptions on memorials erected within the past forty years ever be uploaded to the internet or published in any other formats. It concludes on a positive note encouraging parishes to transfer all non–current materials to the Church’s safe, secure, and permanent repository which is the Representative Church Body Library.