Using court transcripts from 1967

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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wisewoman
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Using court transcripts from 1967

Post by wisewoman »

Hello,

I'm new here and really hope someone can help me.

I have nearly finished a non-fiction book / modern history.
Now, I have a court transcript of over 2000 words from a witness in a high court case in 1967 in the UK. It is all directly relevant to my book.

Can I publish it in its entirety as is? I'm having a devil of a time trying to find the answer on the internet. I understand in the USA court transcripts are considered public records, but I'm not sure about here in the UK? In an ideal world i would publish it all as it as I dont like messing with people words too much.

If I cannot, will I have to resort to paraphrasing and using much smaller selected extracts? Would that then be OK?

Thank you,
Melissa
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AndyJ
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Re: Using court transcripts from 1967

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Melissa,

Copyright in a transcript of something said in court, such as a witness's oral testimony, will usually belong to the court stenographer who made the transcript either contemporaneously or later from recorded audio of the hearing. Sometimes these individuals are employed by the Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and sometimes by private companies working on contract to HMCTS. In all cases these transcripts are Crown Copyright. Technically, use of Crown Copyright material requires permission to be granted by the relevant government department, in this case HMCTS. However, provided that your use falls within the rules of the Open Government Licence scheme this permission is granted automatically due to section 45 (2) of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. The same applies to the judgment of the court, ie the judge's summary of the issues and evidence in the particular case, and his/her finding (known as the ratio). If you wish to use any material which formed part of proceedings before the UK Supreme Court, there is a separate licensing scheme for this: Open Supreme Court Licence (pdf). Note that a newspaper's report of court proceedings would not fall under any of the above categories, with copyright in such a report belonging to the newspaper, and so permission would be required to reproduce anything, other than a short passage under the provisions of section 30 (1ZA).

A witness statement - that is to say a document prepared by a witness beforehand and submitted in evidence - would not be subject to Crown Copyright but would also fall under section 45, which means that it may be reproduced for the purposes of reporting the proceedings. If this sounds like what you want to do, then section 45(2) should give you full immunity to do so.

Make sure that you cite the source of the quotation, ie the court which heard the case and the case details, as well as identifying the individual who made the statement. It is essential that, if you do need to edit the words, you make it clear where this occurs. If in doubt, quote the statement/evidence verbatim and do not paraphrase, that way you cannot inadvertently distort what the witness said to the court. For example if you want quote a witness's oral evidence during examination-in-chief or cross-examination, you should wherever possible indicate the question which was put to the witness, so that their reply is seen in context.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
wisewoman
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Re: Using court transcripts from 1967

Post by wisewoman »

Hello,

Many thanks for your very informative reply. It is really useful. I think I should be safe publishing it exactly as I have it then. I know what case it was and have given the dates for that.

Looking at the material I have , I think it is part of a witnesses statement, rather than a transcript per se, there is no indication of questions asked and reads more like a witnesses statement. Parts of it directly correspond to what was also reported in the newspapers at the time. Either way section 45, as you say appears to give me the go ahead to quote in full - which is perfect for me as It is over 2000 words and likely would fall outside of the 'fair use' clause of other copyright legislations...

Your answer is very much appreciated,
Melissa
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