Material Intellectual Property Rights of Oral History Work-5

The necessity of financial estimation of projects by the Oral History Association

Interviewed and adjusted by Maryam Asadi Jafari
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi

2023-12-27


Following our discussion of Material Intellectual Property Rights of oral history works and the note of A Heritage With No Legal System, we discussed with Sooreh Mehr Publications, Fatehan Publications, Sooreh Sabz Publications, and Dr. Abolfazl Hasanabadi. Now, we have had a conversation with Dr. Mouloud Sotoudeh, a document expert of the Isfahan’s NLAI and an oral practitioner. She joined Isfahan’s NLAI in 1997, and worked in the oral archive department in 1999. In addition to the oral history projects of this organization, she wrote two books titled “Unfinished Service: Memories and Attitudes of Rasul Yahi, Former Political-Security and Social Deputy of Isfahan Governorate” and “Where We Were, Where We Arrived: The Memories of Dr. Abdul Hossein Seifollahi.” About a year has passed since the retirement of Dr. Sotoudeh. In the upcoming interview, she has presented solutions to remove the obstacles to the material rights of oral practitioners:

* According to your experiences in the field of oral history, what challenges have you faced in the field of material intellectual property rights?

Oral history is a method of collecting information that is used all over the world and in all fields. The first generation of oral history activists started working in 1992 in The National Library and Archives of Iran (NLAI), which had limited material resources and was supported by the government budget. For example, I was an employee, doing oral work, and getting paid by the month. For this reason, the focus was on socio-political figures. Little by little, along with interviews, we started teaching oral history to students. By holding various workshops, we taught interested parties and participants how to conduct interviews, store and analyze them. It was very well received. But this action created a problem.

* Was this done with the aim of increasing the workforce?

No. At that time, our goal was that students to get acquainted with the activities of NLAI. If they want to read a document, they will have the ability to interview a person who is aware of the events and has information complementary to the document, and use this method as a research method to compile theses in the future. As a result, they benefit more from our document resources. Finally, analyze if the statements of that person are consistent with the documents or not? The main purpose was to introduce the activities of NLAI and the collection of documents available in this organization. Many students participating in these workshops were not recruited by government institutions and gradually entered the oral history job market. We taught them that they can start from oral history to enter the world of writing, but they entered a world where there was no longer that financial support, and they had to get a project and earn money in this way. Unfortunately, the amounts they were given for oral history projects were very small. Because I prepared work reports for oral history works and had to determine exactly how much time was spent on interviews or implementation, this point caught my attention that if we define a certain amount of money (minimum daily wage) for the same amount of hours, these guys get very little money for the time and energy spent.

*What is your suggestion for earning enough income from oral history projects so that the material rights of oral practitioners would not be violated?

Last year, I called several oral history professors and said, give us an average cost for oral history projects in Isfahan, but they did not answer. I estimated this cost based on my work reports. If we want oral history to thrive, it must have a benchmark price. When a person spends 6 months on a project, he/she should be able to both live and follow his interest. Our society needs oral historians, and it is our duty to provide, as we have taught, the financial framework for oral history enthusiasts to look at it as a career. An oral history project (memories of a person from childhood to the moment of interview) requires at least 20 hours of interviews. In the administrative system, each hour of interview is considered as one working day; 6 hours in cities other than the capital and 8 hours in Tehran. If we calculate the price of each hour at 600000 IRR (~1/2 USD), one hour of interview costs 4800000 IRR (about 9/6 USD). Of course, without taking into account incidental expenses such as: transportation costs, etc. The cost of interviews is estimated at 96000000 IRR (about 20000 USD). The implementation of each hour of interview takes 4 hours, and if we multiply this amount by 600000 IRR (1/2 USD), it costs about 68000000 IRR (~60018 USD). The confrontation of the text has equal material value. Because it is time-consuming and the person who confronts the text spends his time. As you know, when the text is ready, the compiler needs to organize the text, which is where the major part of the time is spent. 1000000 IRR (about 2 USD) is considered for good compiling each page. In total, something about 490 to 500 million IRR (about 1000 USD) budget is needed for a 200-page project. But one person told me that he/she received only 120000000 IRR (240 USD) for doing 300 hours of interviews, implementation, text confrontation, and compiling. If we compare the value of their work with the minimum wage of a simple worker, it would be about 8 Billion IRR (16000 USD)! In my opinion, the Iranian Oral History Association should provide a price list for oral history projects so that anyone who intends to conclude a contract could provide this cost estimate to the project applicant. Apart from this issue, I did not calculate the cost of studies before starting the project. When an expert is involved in this phase of the project, he/she should be paid for the spent time and energy.

*Your proposal for a financial framework may not seem sufficient to professional oral practitioners.

Our discussion is not about professors and doyens. Our discussion is about history graduates who intend to enter the oral history job market. To organize the oral history work market, they should have at least a bill of costs so that they can agree on it with the client of the project so that both the value of the oral history is preserved and the youth can make a living. I don't mean government projects, but the capacities of oral history in the open economy. Because government and civil institutions cannot cover everyone. Assume the oral practitioners want to make a contract with the private sector, how much better if they have a cost estimate like the unions.

* So you believe that the ideal environment and conditions for conducting oral history depend on the intervention of the Oral History Association.

The Oral History Association or any organization that is in charge of oral history can do this. Any institution that does the intellectual planning for this field must organize the financial planning as well.

*You mentioned the potential of the open economy space. Did you mean private organizations? What capacities are there for oral history?

There is a lot of work space and favorable conditions for earning money in the non-governmental space. For example, companies need an expert to interview and provide content to customers and workers, or there are institutions looking to collect information about their background, and this space is very suitable for oral practitioners. Business owners also can to advance their profession by extracting forgotten consciousness, and this is a good job market for oral history. Unfortunately, oral history is used traditionally in our society, while business educators around the world use this method to teach. This shows that there are many ways to make money through oral history and its potential is beyond our imagination. Oral history covers all our cultural, social, and economic dimensions. Currently, coaches of famous football teams in Europe publish their management discussions in the form of oral history books, and we see this information being used in business. I suggest to the young oral practitioners that change the direction of your work towards the economic market of Iran and do not limit yourself to government institutions.

* In the field of intellectual rights of oral history works, we address issues such as rejection of statements by the narrator, after the publication of the book or the publication of interviews without permission. What do you think this gap is caused by?

Lack of awareness is the first gap. First of all, I suggest that the Oral History Association organize a course participated by a lawyer so that the oral practitioners get to know the correct way of concluding a contract, as well as the consequences and legal challenges of this field for the interviewer and the interviewee. If we were familiar with these issues from the beginning, we would not proceed with trial and error, and incidental events would be reduced. Even by publishing a call, collecting articles, and holding a seminar, we can gather those who work in the field of oral history, and analyze and solve this problem.



 
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