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Oral History Guide: Standards & Forms

Guidelines for creating oral histories and oral history projects.


Image (decorative) Copyright: CC BY-SA 3.0 Attribution: ImageCreator - Original Author: Nick Youngson - Original Image:


"Written documentation of copyright ownership is a critical part of any archive’s oral history work."

Unless a different, written agreement has been created, the copyright of an oral history is held jointly between the interviewer and the interviewee. This copyright does not end at death, but passes to the estate of the interviewer or interviewee. When conducting oral history interviews for a Centre College project or a project that will be held by the Centre College Archives, a signed agreement on who owns the copyright must be signed.

Do not use copyrighted music in the interview. 

Do not show copyrighted images in a video interview.

Please review Centre College's copyright policy


If you'd like to know more, read: Speaking of Music and the Counterpoint of Copyright: Addressing Legal Concerns in Making Oral History Available to the Public.



Samples of Release Forms

Formal Agreement (release form)

Participating in an oral history interview must involve signing specific types of agreements or assigning intellectual property rights. Examples include Creative Common licenses, deeds of gift, nonexclusive licenses, permission-to-use agreements, and transfer of copyright.


The Oral History Association maintains a statement of Best Practices addressing both the ethical principles and the practical steps involved in planning and conducting a well-designed oral history project.  Examples of these “principled practices” include:

  • “Oral historians inform narrators about the nature and purpose of oral history interviewing in general and of their interview specifically.”
  • “Oral historians insure that narrators voluntarily give their consent to be interviewed and understand that they can withdraw from the interview or refuse to answer a question at any time.”
  • “Interviewers are obliged to ask historically significant questions, reflecting careful preparation for the interview and understanding of the issues to be addressed.”
  • “Interviewees hold the copyright to their interviews until and unless they transfer those rights to an individual or institution….Interviewers must insure that narrators understand the extent of their rights to the interview and the request that those rights be yielded to a repository or other party, as well as their right to put restrictions on the use of the material. All use and dissemination of the interview content must follow any restrictions the narrator places upon it.”
  • “Interviewers must respect the rights of interviewees to refuse to discuss certain subjects, to restrict access to the interview, or, under certain circumstances, to choose anonymity. Interviewers should clearly explain these options to all interviewees.”
  • “In the use of interviews, oral historians strive for intellectual honesty and the best application of the skills of their discipline, while avoiding stereotypes, misrepresentations, or manipulations of the narrators’ words.”


Information to Collect

Centre College Archives requires the followings form for submission to the Archives: 

Further Reading