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Copyright information for artists interested in public records 


I am an artist. What do I need to know about copyright and intellectual property rights if I am inspired by, or wish to reproduce Victorian state government archives?


Q1)  If I produce new works inspired by the public record collection who maintains the copyright and IP for those works?

You are free to produce unique work (new work) inspired by the collection items you have viewed. You will retain the copyright and do not require permission to publish or sell that work.

If you have been funded by the Artist in Residence Program, you will need to sign a copyright agreement with PROV.  While you will still own copyright in any works you create as part of the program, you will grant. PROV permission to republish those works for public programming, communication, and publicity purposes: including online and social media platforms. The agreement also includes occasions where the expectation is that original works will be exhibited for public viewing.


Q2) Do I need permission to reproduce, adapt, transform, or remix public records in my work?

No, if the records are out of copyright. You are free to reproduce, adapt, transform, and remix these public records. Please note that there will be an assumption that as the creator of the works you have taken into consideration any Aboriginal cultural copyright (see below further information) and more broadly any ethical considerations about records such as people’s privacy.

While much of PROV’s collection is out of copyright, you will need to request permission for records still protected under copyright.

Yes, If the record is ‘crown copyright’ protected PROV can grant you a license to publish or reuse that work.

What does reuse mean? 

    • publishing the record, for example, in an article, book or online, and
    • adapting, transforming, or remixing the record. 

Its important to note that not all records made by government agencies are crown copyright. In these cases, PROV will help you find the correct government agency to seek their permission to use these records.


Q3) What if someone other than the government owns the copyright?

Where the copyright in the record is still owned by a private person or it is unclear who created or owns the copyright in the record, PROV cannot grant you permission to publish or reuse the record. Instead, you will need to seek out their permission or consider if an exception to securing permission under Australian copyright law applies in your circumstances. Any risk of re-using records without permission will lie with the artist.


Q4) If I reuse public records in my work can I then commercialise and display them?

Yes, you are free to commercialise and display any works that reuses public records. Again, it is up to you secure appropriate copyright permissions if these reproduced records are still in copyright. PROV requests that your artist statement includes an attribution to the citation or to Public Record Office Victoria.

Where can I find out more information?

PROV has provided general information about copyright considerations when using our records on our website. If you are unsure about the copyright status of a record you wish to reuse in an artwork, PROV may be able to assist you. It may be a good idea to investigate the copyright status of a record before you decide to include it in your artwork.  Here is a page with more information about copyright and public records. Copyright for researchers 



Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be aware the collection and website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.

PROV provides advice to researchers wishing to access, publish or re-use records about Aboriginal Peoples