Take-down policies

A Take-Down policy serves to try and minimise institutional risk from inappropriate material being made available through the repository. In the same way that institutions rarely police what content is provided by an author on other webpages, then repositories can provide a facility for authors to expose their work on their own cognizance. This forms part of the concept of the Deposit Licence, in asking authors to accept copyright and content responsibility for the material that they deposit. However, what happens if there is a complaint by a reader? Complaints may be genuine, erroneous or frivolous and it might take some time to decide which. It is important to know in advance what measures should be taken to handle the situation.

Risk Management

To mitigate risk, the generally held view is that a Take-Down policy should adopt a safety-first approach and have as a first action removal of the item, or at least removing it from public view. A more considered evaluation of possible copyright infringement or other legal difficulty can then be made, secure in the knowledge that the institution has at least made some immediate response. After consideration, where the process might take some time to resolve, the item can then be removed completely or re-exposed accordingly.

If an eprint was exposed which caused some problem (which may be copyright, but may have some other problem) then prompt action by the institution would demonstrate that some care and responsibility has been taken. If the eprint remains visible while the difficulty is identified and resolved, then if there is a problem this will have been compounded by its remaining visible throughout! A court may decide that this behaviour merits punishment in itself, quite apart from the original transgression.

Policy triggers

Differentiating between complaints which are frivolous and those which have the potential to develop into serious situations generally means passing the complaint on to an appropriate person who is able to take responsibility for the decision. However, general feed-back to RSP staff shows that complaints about repository content at any level are few and far between and RSP staff are not aware of any situation where such a take-down policy has been actioned. Therefore a cautious approach responding to any but the most obviously trivial complaints may not cause unnecessary action.

Policy process

A Take-Down policy should state what action should be taken, by who, and in what time-frame, to secure the situation. This might be something as simple as saying that any complaint will be passed on within "x" hours of receipt on a working day to be assessed for removal of the public record within, say, 24 hours or shorter. There would then need to be some defined process where the complaint could be properly assessed and an appropriate course of action taken.

Summary

It is advisable to think through and develop a Take-Down policy as part of general risk-management. Such a policy puts in place some measure of control if a serious situation does arise and can be seen as a type of insurance - a relevant situation may never happen, but if it does, it is as well to be prepared.

A more complete version of the information in this page is available as a separate RSP document: Take-Down Policies

Find out more from the JISC Digital Repositories infoKit