Material Intellectual Property Rights of Oral History Work-7

It is among the narrator's rights to know from the ultimate goal of the interviewer and final confirmation of the text.

The importance of paying a decent fee to a methodical and scientific oral history project

Interviewed and adjusted by Maryam Asadi Jafari
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi

2024-02-28


Following our discussion of Material Intellectual Property Rights of oral history works, we have had an interview with “Yadollah Izadi,” one of the narrators of the Sacred Defense era, and a researcher and activist in the field of oral history of war. He is now working with the Sacred Defense Documentation and Research Center. Among Yadollah Izadi's works, one can mention “Narrative of Ali Eshaghi; Electronic War” and volumes from the book series “Iran-Iraq War Chronicles.”

 

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*Mr. Izadi, based on the interviews we recently conducted with publishers and oral practitioners about the material and intellectual rights of oral history works, we found out that the publishers try to have the least possible tension and friction in setting up contracts with the project executer in the future; such as avoiding the oral practitioner’s share in the profit out of reprinting the book. The project executers also complain about imbalance of the interview costs to preparation of the book with the contract amount, and manipulating content by the publisher. Now we want to go beyond this and address it more generally. My first question is how far does the scope of material rights of oral history works extend?

The discussion about legal issues of oral history contracts is a whole, part of which can be defined under the title of material rights. These material rights are also the two-party’s rights. That is, the employer and the project executer must reach an understanding and agreement within the general laws of the country, but about details of the contract, the basis is the very agreement of the parties. Different publications have different rules. Reputable publishers have frameworks linked to its copies, book cover price, reprinting, author status, importance of the subject, and the market. Some books have guaranteed sales. That is, before the book is published, the market is waiting for it. Being welcomed by the audience in such works makes the employer consider the author's material interests well. In the field of memory and oral history, may be the executer side well not be taken, but generally, economic problems are the reality of our society today. From this point of view, the expenses that are placed on the shoulder of the executive are thought provoking. Of course, in this regard, it depends on the obligations that are entrusted to the executer in the contract. In some contracts, zero to one hundred percent of the project is responsibility of the executor; from the cost of implementation to typing, editing, and compilation. Therefore, the material rights of the oral practitioner should be well seen and the cost estimation should be done correctly based on quality and nature of the project. So, oral history contracts are an agreement between the parties, but how fair the employers are should be addressed in the examples. Of course, it should also be kept in mind that, unfortunately, financial inflow in the field of publishing is not appropriate. Costs of publishing, increasingly paper prices, and publishing problems have stagnated the publishing market. Publishers who are still active, it is either because of their love in this field or they have government funds. So there are many problems, some of which are material, and the executers of oral history projects complain their rights are not well reflected in the contracts. For example, some books, as the famous saying goes, flourish, but the author does not benefit from his/her legal benefits due to the type of contract arrangement. The private sector cares about its own interests, and the public sector is also involved in contractionary policies, and so to speak, its damages hurt the executive.

*Part of the points you mentioned are general problems in the field of publishing and can be generalized to all fields, but another part of it, due to the specificity of process of compiling oral history, is only a problem for executers of oral history, and some costs are put on the shoulders of the executer; without having a financial support. On the other hand, you mentioned the agreement and rights of the parties. Agreement means bargaining and reaching an agreement. But according to the word of oral practitioners, it seems it is not possible to bargain, and for various reasons, they accept every amount; even if it is unprofitable. Since the employer side is more powerful, how can a fair agreement be reached?

The fact is that economic problems have penetrated into the field of culture. Do they look at the costs at the beginning of the work order or at the end of the contract, in which the project will last for a year and during this time, the value of the money will be halved? Apart from working for a year and spending money for implementation, typing, editing, and other works, the executer must also make a living, so how can he/she focus on the quality of work? Considering this point, the contracts are not up-to-date and have bad effects too. The satisfaction of the parties is a fact that must happen, and it affects quality of work of the author and the project executer. Sometimes investors, considering power of pen and that the executer is a reputable author, are willing to earn less and have a powerful work, but sometimes if the author is not well-known, he/she has to agree to any amount which itself has a negative effect on quality of the works. Unfortunately, oral history is in serious danger from this area.

*You mentioned the bad effects of using people who are willing to do oral history projects with the lowest wage, and do this without knowing about this research method. For this reason, in recent years, we have witnessed publication of weak books under label of oral history. Do you mean the negative impact the very aspect?

Yes. Based on the contract issue, we say it has a negative effect on quality of the works. It is natural that there are very important issues in how to perform oral history. So does anyone who came and felt that oral history is an easily accessible field and with a few sessions of conversation with a person or subject and editing the text can turn it into a book, can he/she enter this field? However, there are institutions and agencies that do serious work in the field of oral history and have basic concerns. We must accept that this field, especially in the interview phase, requires training and research, and appropriate and sufficient experience. The compiler of oral history must have a correct understanding of oral history so that the published book creates interest among the readers, and approaches some of the issues that are the goal of oral history. Oral history is considered a shortcut for writers, but it is inherently and originally a difficult task; however, the oral works are works whose collection and establishing method is oral. It is better to call them oral rather than oral history! For example, a person produces a text out of five to six conversation sessions, simplifies it in some way, and publishes it. When in qualitative work, the absolute value of quantity is given either intentionally or unintentionally, it is natural that it will bring many bad effects. In any case, the field of culture needs investment and cultural trustees should know that although we have a society that has strong cultural roots, the continuation, persistence, and updating cultural issues require attention, investment, training, and precision. Today, through examining the damages in the field of oral history, we find out what dangers are lurking in the cultural future of our society, and so to speak, it is considered the cultural Achilles heel of the society.

* Can a precise financial framework and criteria be considered for these projects in order to be fair and avoid the negative effects of financial disregarding on oral history?

Yes, it is absolutely possible. Some of these actions are simple operational tasks and only require a simple multiplication and division. For example, every hour of conversation at an average speed in speaking becomes about 30 pages of text. The cost of implementation, typing, encountering, and controlling and editing can be calculated based on the same number of pages and time spent; but what makes the issue more qualitative is the research before starting the project, interview, and compiling. That is, it is before and after the conversion of this sound into text that is important. An impromptu oral history is not applicable! Understanding the project, the criteria for selecting the narrator and the subject, preliminary research before the interview, and the topic of oral history research and many other issues are important. A person is selected for an interview because he/she has an experience and this gives him/her a value. So the employer chooses him to express his/her observations and experiences regarding an event. Such a project requires preliminary research. If you are going to conduct a targeted interview, you need a roadmap to proceed according to the plan. The better quality this plan has, the more interesting, readable, and closer to the intended purpose the output of the content will be. This is only a part of description of the services or duties that the employer expects from the performer. When a project proceeds methodically and scientifically, it should naturally be paid appropriately.

* Apart from the agreement of the parties, the material intellectual property rights of the narrator are less considered than those of the compiler and the publisher. Maybe they will have a share to the extent of receiving a certain number of their memoir books. What do you think about this?

The people participating in implementation of oral history work are classified in three sides; employer, interviewer, and interviewee. We should also consider the role of narrator or interviewee in legal matters. He also has rights, part of which is material rights. Oral history is the history of masses. That is, sometimes you have an interview with ordinary people about a topic or you collect their memories about a historical event or their lived experience, but a part of oral history is the oral history of elites. Therefore, we go to officials, commanders, educated people, experienced people, founders of structures, systems, and holders of achievements, and this is an elite conversation. Some are willing to talk because of personal motives, but when we are dealing with the elite society, the material rights for the time spent on the interview should be considered. Why publishing oral history of the elite field should be profitable for the publisher but ignore the narrator's rights? On the other hand, when you convince the narrator to start an interview, you should inform him/her what is purpose of these conversations. He/she should know in which ground of reason should speak and what questions to answer so that their words are conveyed correctly. Exactly what he/she said should be reflected in the book, and the texts should not be changed as much as in the publishing process that their intention in the text would not be achieved. All these points are among intellectual rights of the narrator. The narrator must read and approve the output text. It is customary all over the world that the performer or employer undertakes material rights of the narrator. Suppose family of a martyr does not tie expressing their child's memories with material issues, but this does not negate their rights either! Only form of the rights may be different, but ultimately, there are rights for the narrator.

*So, you believe in importance and existence of material rights for the narrator. According to your experience in the management department of oral history, to what extent do you try to respect intellectual rights of the narrator?

Oral history is conventional in our society and mostly does not proceed based on logic and scientific rules; both in its essence and in the implementation methods. So, you see those involved in oral history who do not have a deep and correct understanding of its nature. In some projects, the interviewer and the compiler are different, and unfortunately, they introduce some literature in the output text. That is, after the interview, the text is compiled in a way that is very different from logic of the interview, and after reading the book, you do not understand the narrator very well, because the book, rather than reflecting that person's narration, is result of the writing skills of an author. In some cases, we see too much involvement of literature by the executers in oral history products. Therefore, even some of the best-selling oral history books distance themselves from the nature and logic of oral history. Currently, the original narration and interview are kept in some centers as the main source and document of that narration. If there is a disagreement or misunderstanding, and for example the narrator says, what is in the book is not my words, they refer to that source to determine whether text of the book is attributed to the narrator or not. Because responsibility of what has been published is on the shoulders of the narrator.

* Is it possible to consider the intellectual rights only for the interviewer and interviewee and exclude the publisher from this circle?

It depends on how we define intellectual rights.

*Let's focus on these two sides of oral history. You talked about the intellectual rights of the narrator and said how the compilation method affects the authenticity of the narration. What aspects of the intellectual rights of oral practitioners have been neglected?

Every book that is published is a part of the publisher's and author's performance sheet, and certainly, to choose the author, their work experience is looked at; To what extent does he/she have a correct understanding of his/her specialized field and to what extent is a capable and self-reliant person. On the other hand, in the copyright page or in the introduction, name of the author, interviewer, compiler, editor, and even designer of the cover and layout are given. Names of co-workers should be mentioned in one of these sections. These are part of intellectual rights. The publisher cannot say that this work is supported by us, so it is solely ours! So, who did write this work and played a role in its creation? These points are the case even in material rights. Material and intellectual rights have a semantic definition. It means that some rights are both material and intellectual. As soon as volumes of the book are granted to the author and narrator, the fee included in the contract, and commitment of the executer to carry out the project, although have a material form, but they also have nature of intellectual rights. It is not possible to draw a precise line and border between material and intellectual rights, because they are connected and intertwined by nature. For example, when a book is judged and selected as the best work in a festival, the prize belongs to the author, but some publishers mention in the contract that if the book wins a prize in a festival, the prize belongs to the publisher and this is not really correct. Therefore, the performer must be aware of his/her rights at the time of concluding the contract, but the author's bargaining power depends on their reputation, and if a writer is at the beginning of the journey, he/she must naturally endure patiently this period so that his/her works gradually attract the audience.

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Oral History Works and Upcoming Problems-2 Presenting the issue of material intellectual property right

Note- A Heritage with No Legal System

Material Intellectual Property Rights of Oral History Works-1- The publication "Sureh Mehr" focuses on respecting the equal rights of the parties

Material Intellectual Property Rights of Oral History Works-2- Material motives should not enter into the space of narration

Material Intellectual Property Rights of Oral History Works-3- “Work for Hire Agreement” is the best approach with difficult publishing conditions

Material Intellectual Property Rights of Oral History Works-4- Most Oral History Practitioners Get Caught Up in Criteria of Formal Compilation of Organizations Material Intellectual Property Rights of Oral History Work-5- The necessity of financial estimation of projects by the Oral History Association

Material Intellectual Property Rights of Oral History Works-6- In Oral History Contracts, Commitment Is One-sided



 
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