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Sound and Video Access Policies

Archives of the A.A. General Service Office

The G.S.O. Archives collection’s sound and video recordings include productions by the G.S.O., individual A.A. members, and friends of A.A.  The recordings include tapes of conferences, meetings, and other special events; speeches by Bill W. and other early A.A. pioneers; oral history interviews; and more.  These recordings have great significance to the history of Alcoholics Anonymous, and help carry the message of the Fellowship of A.A.  For any serious researcher, we will endeavor to provide the highest level of access to these historical materials. 
However, we are bound by several factors that may limit our ability to duplicate or provide access to our recordings.  In most cases the General Service Office does not hold copyright for the recordings.  Many of the items are unique and in some cases the Archives retains the only known copy.  In addition, many recordings reveal A.A. members’ identities or contain other sensitive content.  Because of the one-of-a-kind nature of these items and the Archives Department’s commitment to A.A.’s guiding principles, the following policies and restrictions apply to their duplication and use.
Procedures for Use

Researchers wishing to learn about our holdings, or wishing to listen to specific sound recordings or view archival video recordings should first contact the archives by mail, phone, or email.  Each request will be considered individually.  Depending on the needs of the researcher and the types of materials requested, a researcher may have to establish approval with the trustees’ Archives Committee before being given access to the materials.  The trustees’ Archives Committee meets to decide on these requests three times each year.  If the request requires this approval, the archivists will direct the user through the application process.  
If visiting the Archives, researchers also must make prior arrangements with the Archives so that proper playback and listening equipment can be made available. 
Archives staff may have to view and/or listen to recordings to determine subject content and/or suitability for outside distribution and duplication, paying particular attention to issues of anonymity.  This service will be provided for a fee, to be determined by the length of the recording, and may be limited by staff availability and other office priorities.  Note that this service is simply a preliminary listening/viewing to determine content, and no transcription will result.  If the user requires a transcription, this will be done by a professional transcription service and additional charges may apply.
Duplication requests will be filled in a timely manner based on staff responsibilities.  There will be a duplication charge, which includes preparation time and actual copying time.  Researchers will also be expected to pay for the cost of materials, such as CDs and DVDs.  If a separate vendor must be engaged to make a copy, the charge will be passed on to the researcher at cost.  The Archives staff will provide the requester with an estimate of the approximate total cost for examining, preparing, duplicating, and shipping the recording(s) before any work is begun.  Note that certain formats cannot be duplicated because of a lack of compatible duplication equipment. 
Finally, given our limited staff resources, we ask researchers to restrict their requests for duplication to a reasonable quantity of material.  The Archives Department reserves the right to impose limits on the amount of material that can be requested at any given time and by any one individual.  In most cases, due to staff resources and copyright restrictions, a limit of one copy per item per request will be imposed.
Duplication Restrictions

The Archives Department reserves the right to restrict duplication due to concerns of copyright, anonymity, condition, or donor requirements.  
  • Copyright — If the Archives staff has any reason to believe that duplicating a videotape or sound recording will violate U.S. Copyright Law, they will refuse the request.

    The person requesting the reproduction assumes all responsibility for infraction of copyright, or any use that exceeds fair use provisions.  Any commercial application of copyrighted materials is not fair use and always requires the consent of the copyright holder.  Permission to reproduce does not constitute permission to publish – see below for publication restrictions.
  • Anonymity — Users are restricted by A.A’s 11th and 12th traditions on anonymity from revealing the name of any A.A. member(s), living or deceased.  At the level of the public media, such individuals, including the co-founders and other A.A. pioneers, must remain anonymous under all circumstances.  If applicable the Archives will require users to commit in writing to preserving A.A. members’ identities.
  • Condition — Sound and video recording media (VHS tapes, cassettes, etc.) are typically fragile, and degrade quickly.  Frequent use quickens this deterioration.  The Archives Department will always act to ensure the survival of its audio recordings, and may deny any request that could not be made without damaging the original recording.  In some cases, if a duplicate recording is to be made for a researcher, the Archives will require another duplicate copy to be made for its collection to facilitate ongoing use and preservation, at the researcher’s expense.
  • Donor Requirements — Some donors of audio or video material may have imposed restrictions on access as a condition of the donation.  These will always be respected.
Distribution and Publication Restrictions

Permission to access our materials and have copies made does not signify that a researcher has been given permission to publish or further copy the material.  Users will not be permitted to make additional copies of sound recordings or videos for sale or widespread distribution. 
The Archives Department restricts use of its recordings in television, video, motion picture, and all other media productions, including posting on the Internet.  For use in these media, separate permission must be obtained from A.A.W.S.  
It is solely the responsibility of the researcher to obtain the permission of the copyright owner before publishing any previously unpublished material.  In many cases A.A.W.S. does not hold copyright for the audiovisual materials in its collections.  Permission to publish is required from both the owner of copyright and the G.S.O. Archives as owner of the physical property.



The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be used for any purpose than private study, scholarship or research. If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use", that user may be liable for copyright infringement and/or subject to criminal prosecution.