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Clear skies or cloudy forecast? : Legal challenges in the management and acquisition of audiovisual materials in the cloud

Elaine Goh (School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)

Records Management Journal

ISSN: 0956-5698

Article publication date: 11 March 2014



Using the example of audiovisual materials, this paper aims to illustrate how records-related and archival legislation lags behind advances in technology. As more audiovisual materials are created on the cloud, questions arise about the applicability of national laws over the control, ownership, and custody of data and records.


This paper analyses court cases relating to audiovisual materials in the cloud and archival legislation from three Commonwealth countries: Canada, Australia, and Singapore – representing North America, the Pacific, and Asia respectively.


Current records-related and archival legislation does not effectively address the creation, processing, and preservation of records and data in a cloud environment. The paper identifies several records-related risks linked to the cloud – risks related to the ownership and custody of data, legal risks due to transborder data flow, and risks due to differing interpretations on the act of copying and ownership of audiovisual materials.

Research limitations/implications

The paper identifies the need for records professionals to pay greater attention to the implications of the emerging cloud environment. There is a need for further research on how the concept of extraterritoriality and transborder laws can be applied to develop model laws for the management and preservation of records in the cloud.


The paper identifies record-related risks linked to the cloud by analyzing court cases and archival legislation. The paper examines maritime law to find useful principles that the archival field could draw on to mitigate some of these risks.



Part of the research for this paper was conducted as part of the author's responsibilities as a research assistant for the Records in the Cloud Project ( An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 17th Southeast Asia-Pacific Audio-Visual Archives Association (SEAPAVVA) Conference: Redefining the Audio-Visual Archives in the Digital Age, 27-31 May 2013 Bangkok, Thailand. The author wishes to thank Ms Irene Lim, Vice-President of SEAPAVVA and Principal Archivist, Audio-visual Archives from the National Archives of Singapore for her encouragement and Dr Luciana Duranti and Dr Donald Force for their comments on the earlier draft of the paper.


Goh, E. (2014), "Clear skies or cloudy forecast? : Legal challenges in the management and acquisition of audiovisual materials in the cloud", Records Management Journal, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 56-73.



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