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Thinking about the Types of Consent Forms Archivists Encounter

Throughout 2021, the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) has been running informal DRI Coffee Mornings on the last Wednesday of every month. These Coffee Mornings provide DRI Members and staff with a forum to start a conversation about digital preservation related topics in a relaxed environment. DRI’s Policy Manager Dr Aileen O’Carroll hosted a session on challenges and issues related to the various types of consent forms that archivists encounter in their work. She expands on the difference between research consent forms, data deposit agreements, and copyright release agreements in the following blog post.  


‘...yes I said yes I will Yes’ – James Joyce, Ulysses

Archivists encounter different types of consent forms in their work: research consent forms, data deposit agreements, and copyright release agreements. Although there are similarities between these three types of agreement, each one is used for a different purpose. When archiving research data, for example, archivists should be aware of the ethical and legal aspects which cover the creation and re-use of datasets. When accepting material from a depositor, data deposit agreements need to similarly outline issues of provenance, copyright, and re-use. Copyright release agreements are often used when re-broadcasting public seminars and meetings. 

Additionally, archivists need to be aware of the data protection requirements of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In Ireland, this legislation was translated into law by the introduction of the 2018 Data Protection Act. Article 89 of GDPR allows for the processing of personal data for archiving in the public interest. Archiving of special category data (which would include most research data on living people) is possible if one of the following stipulations is met: consent is obtained;  compliance with a legal obligation;  the performance of a task carried out in the public interest;  legitimate interests.


Research Data and Consent


The terms of the archiving of special category data  may leave the impression that consent is not necessary when archiving research data as it could be argued that an archivist carries out their tasks in the public interest. However, archivists should also be aware that researchers have ethical responsibilities in addition to their legal responsibilities. Generally, in Ireland, approval to conduct research must be granted by local ethical review boards before researchers conducting research involving living people can begin to gather data. These review boards would generally give guidance on the production of consent forms. Archivists should therefore ensure that they review consent forms and information sheets, checking to see if:

  • There is consent to archive?
  • There is mention of destroying the data?
  • Confidentiality is granted? 
  • If so, are the legal limits outlined? (See the Boston College Oral History for an example of why this is important. )
  • If so, has the research data been anonymised?
  • Has the research obtained ethical review?

While it is not yet common for consent forms to include questions on access, it does make it much easier for the archivist to apply the appropriate access conditions to the data set if these questions have been included.

Below are examples of questions on who can access the archive which might be included on consent forms:  

  • I agree that my archived interviews will be made available to the general public.  
  • I agree that access to my archived interviews will be restricted to those engaged in teaching and research.  

Many of the research data sets archived in DRI also include a sample of the consent form used in the project. You can see examples here:

Data Deposit Agreements

A data deposit agreement is a contract between the depositor and an archive that outlines the terms of the deposit, for example, it might determine closure and access terms and underpin confidentiality expectations. When accepting material from a depositor, an archivist needs to ensure that the data deposit agreement similarly outlines issues of the following: 

  • Ownership – does the depositor own the data or have the right to give it to you?
  • Copyright
  • Licences and re-use – that is, what can be done with the data?
  • Access – who should be granted access to the data?

Often the depositor retains ownership of the objects, but will grant permissions to the repository to make them available to others.

Example of a Deposit Agreement

Copyright Release

Finally, copyright release agreements are often used when re-broadcasting public seminars and meetings, and may be necessary if these broadcasts are then to be archived, particularly if the content could be considered as a creative act and so covered by copyright law. In this new era of Zoom meetings and webinars, this is likely to be something archivists need to take into consideration more. Below is an example of a copyright release used by the DRI.

Audio/audio-visual/image recording and image/biography/abstract submission consent form




This form is to be signed by the person who is agreeing to audio/audio-visual/image recording and submitting of images, abstracts and biographies to the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) as a participant in the event detailed above, to be carried out by the DRI.

Compliance Information

The purpose of this form is to seek consent for audio recording to be made and subsequently published on the DRI.

Audio/audio-visual/image recordings are saved to our secure network for processing and subsequent publication. The DRI will publish the recording of your presentation with a non-exclusive CC BY-NC-ND licence. You retain the copyright in the content of your recording. The recording will be uploaded with metadata attributing you as the speaker/creator and will be accompanied by your presentation slides.

In addition, your photograph may be taken at today’s event for use in promoting the event on DRI’s social media platforms and website. The images are retained for as long as the content is required for accessibility to the public and researchers.  Retention is subject to periodic review.

I grant permission to the DRI to make and publish an audio recording of the event above, 



Our Virtual Coffee Mornings are a forum where DRI Members and staff can start a conversation about digital preservation topics, challenges, or projects in a relaxed environment. We welcome all members to join us for these meetings, which are advertised in advance by the DRI team. To find out more about DRI’s membership model, visit our Membership page. Watch this space for future blog posts on the topics shared in our Coffee Mornings!


Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash