Duplication of recordings

Every sound archive needs a policy and procedure for making copies of archival sound recordings for researchers. This is a fundamental service that must be provided. It is made necessary by the fact that the greatest obstacle ยท for the user to research in recorded sound lies in obtaining copies of required recordings. Duplication policy will, of course, depend on the nature of the collection, its preservation status, restrictions by donors on certain recordings and the copyright limitations on use that may exist within a particular country. However, within these limitations which are faced by all sound archives, a policy statement is needed outlining what will or will not be copied and backed up by procedures for making copies available once permissions are secured by the researcher.

There are several ways to provide copies of recordings when requested. Most often a duplication service, either in-house or by contract with an outside source, can be established to make tape duplicates for purchase either in a reel-to-reel or cassette format at prices to be established by the sound archive. An adequate and equitable price schedule can be formulated by charging the researcher for the cost of the tape stock, reel and box plus an additional charge for the recording engineer's time to produce the duplicate copy. Mailing, shipping, and handling charges must also be accounted for in the final costs to the researcher.

A duplication service normally requires that original recordings (whether disc, tape, wire, cylinder, etc.) be recorded, so that an additional copy is available from which duplicates can be made for researchers. The guiding principle to be followed is that just as original recordings or archival copies should not be played for or by researchers, they also must not be played repeatedly to produce duplicates. On heavily used or requested items (say more than five times) it may be advisable to prepare more than one copy for use in making duplicates for archive users.

In lieu of producing copies of recordings for purchase some sound archives, for example the Sound Section of the Public Archives of Canada, allow researchers to provide the blank tape which is used by the archive to make the requester's copy. In addition to providing a duplication service, the Motion Picture, Sound and Video Branch at the US National Archives in Washington DC, allows researchers to record their own copies of non-restricted recordings directly from listening copies played on its research room equipment. The visitor need only provide his own tape and recording equipment. Staff technical time and archive recording equipment can thus be used more effectively while the researcher is able inexpensively to obtain copies of recordings for study and research. These are examples of duplication procedures which aim to provide the maximum access and use of archival sound recordings at the minimum cost and inconvenience to the user.

When duplication is permissible and offered as a basic reference service then, on the basis of staff and equipment resources, a sound archive must determine whether to produce copies of segments or excerpts of recordings as needed by researchers or only to provide copies of entire reels. For some sound archives, because of the high volume of requests for duplication, it has been found to be impractical to provide copies of excerpts of recordings and a policy has been established to allow researchers to select for purchase only full reels. For extensively used collections with heavy research traffic, full-reel copying allows the archive to utilize high speed duplicating equipment thus effectively lowering the cost of tape duplicates since excessive time and labor is not required by archive technical staff to locate and record numerous segments or excerpts. A requested item is simply placed on high speed duplicators and the entire reel is quickly and cheaply reproduced. This method of duplication has been found to speed response time to researchers' orders and to be less expensive overall for the user.