Oral History Works and Upcoming Problems-2

Mahya Hafezi
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


In order to understand more about the problems of producing books on the subject of oral history or memoirs, the oral history website has conducted short interviews with some experts and practitioners, which will be presented to the readers in short notes and in several parts. Previously, the first part of this note was published under the title of “Oral History Works and Upcoming Problems-1” and the following is the second part.

Intellectual Property and Material Property

Various people play a role in the production and publication of oral history works, such as the person who has the memories in mind (the narrator), the interviewer, the compiler, the publisher, the investor, and so on. Although the production of oral history works has similarities with the production of other types of literary works, there are also differences; because each of the roles involved in the production of this work can claim that the rights of the work belong to them, and if they are removed from the production cycle, the work would not be completed.

The question raised here is that who really owns the intellectual and material property of an oral history work? Or how much is the share of each? Maybe in many cases this issue is not important; but for some works that are popular and are printed many times, this issue shows itself more. If a work wins an award in a festival, which of the production's roles would be given this award?

Each of these people can consider the maximum right for themselves. The narrator can claim if there were not my memories, this work would never have been produced. On the other hand, if there was no interviewer and these memories were not taken out of the narrator's mind, there would still be no work. The compiler can also claim that it was his/her pen that made the work successful and only publishing an interview without editing would not make the work successful. In the same way, investors and publishers can make such claims.

The intellectual property of the characters will be preserved by introducing them in the copyright page or the introduction of the book. For example, in the book “Encyclopedia of Pahlavi Political Prison”, on the last page of the preface, names of the people who played a role in the entry selection council, academic board, executive board, writing, editing, consulting, etc. are mentioned. Also, in this section, we can see list of research centers and organizations that somehow collaborated in the production of this work. In this way, the intellectual property of natural and legal persons involved in this work is preserved.

But determining the material property of the work is not so simple. Internationally, contracts are concluded with a large number of pages to solve this problem and all the details are included. It is known that these contracts are so strong as if they are going to take over a government. But in Iran, for various reasons, such contracts are usually not concluded. Perhaps one reason is that to produce oral history works that are related to the revolution and the sacred defense, the memories are usually in the minds of those who have a value laden view and do not seek to receive material rights. Perhaps due to administrative weakness, less attention has been paid to such legal issues.

Usually, an “agreement” is made on the contribution of each of the producer roles in oral history works; but there is no “law” in this field. Accordingly, there is no single version for all works. For example, if the basis of calculation is that the share of the publisher is 40% and the share of each of the narrator, interviewer, and editor is 20%, in this case, if the interview and editing is done by one person, 40% of the material property will belong to him/her; It means twice as much as the narrator! This is where the problem will appear.

Being more careful in the matter of material property, more points will stand out. For example, the serial “Soran” was adapted from the oral history book “Kriskan Afternoons”, the memories of Amir Saeedzadeh written by Kianoush Golzar Ragheb. Although both the producer of the serial and the publisher of the book are from the same organization, will there be a law to resolve the possible disputes of the material property of the narrator and the compiler of the book in the serial?

Reflecting on this issue shows that no legal solution has been considered yet for it. Here it is supposed simply that the agreements are sufficient, and if a legal problem arises, the law is silent on it. On the other hand, experts have also different opinions in this field and there is no unanimity. In such a situation, such different and divergent opinions will not benefit creators of oral history works.

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