Digital Repatriation: Copyright Policies, Fair Use, and Ethics

Document Type

Book Chapter


music; ethnomusicology; digital collections; archives; music; repatriation; copyright law; ethics; fair use

Identifier Data



Oxford Handbooks Online


This essay makes two points about digital collections. The first recognizes problems that emerge as archives present indigenous content online. In uploading indigenous songs, speeches, and documents, an archive allows that material to move from a local space with limited access to an international repository with many points of access. This chapter examines conflicts that can occur with this action, including those involving copyright law, fair use, and ethics. A second point of this chapter revolves around technology and repatriation. If repatriation means the return of material to a country of origin, then online archives never fully commit to this task. The material typically remains preserved on servers and in its original forms away from indigenous communities. Despite these ethical, legal, and technological concerns, archives should encourage the creation of digital collections as part of repatriation given the desire by many indigenous communities to preserve and promote their traditions.