Material Intellectual Property Rights of Oral History Work-4

Most Oral History Practitioners Get Caught Up in Criteria of Formal Compilation of Organizations

Interviewed and adjusted by Maryam Asadi Jafari
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


Following our discussion of Material Intellectual Property Rights of oral history works and the note of A Heritage With No Legal System, we discussed with Sooreh Mehr Publications, Fatehan Publications, and Sooreh Sabz Publications. During the latest weeks, the Oral History Website interviewed with some oral history practitioners in this field. In the current interview, “Dr. Abolfazl Hasanabadi” addresses more accurate and more concrete angles of material intellectual property rights in oral history books. We hope that after releasing the interview, more oral history scholars share their opinions with us:

  1. We interviewed with three publishers who are working in the field of oral history, and finally, their words showed that they choose one of the two options of contract: A work for hire contract or project agreement, and devoting a percent of book cover price to the author. Which kind of material intellectual property rights are the oral history practitioner more comfortable with?

The issue of publishing a book in the field of oral history is no different from other research fields. In some research works, sometimes a contract is made from the beginning to the end in the form of a project; preparation, conducting interviews, implementation, and publication are mentioned in it. Sometimes a work is not regarded in the form of a book, and the contract starts with the interview and ends with the delivery of the work to the publisher; so, the author has nothing to do with the publication of the work. That is, you do a book based on the framework and structure of a publisher, and you receive the wage of interview, implementation, compiling, and editing. Sometimes the same procedure is along with a percentage of the cover price. Oral history contracts can be examined from different perspectives.

  1. Which contract do you think is more fair?

The discussion is not fair or unfair. Oral history is different in this respect. In terms of material rights, it all depends on the contract you enter into. How skilled you are and how much they want and like your pen, and how much the publisher or client will accept your structure and conditions is very unlikely to happen. In general, we do not have a favorable situation in the field of publishing and this is a reality; whether in the field of oral history or in other fields. Now there are people who cannot find a publisher for their oral history works. It means he/she has completed the book from zero to one hundred, but no publisher will bear the burden of printing his/her book because publication is expensive, and copies and readers are a few. This was not the case in the past and people published their memories or memoirs at their own expense. Now many publishers do not enter the field because no one is willing to invest for a 300-page book that costs at least 5 million Rial/about 10 USD per copy! Most of the publishers who are still active in this publishing situation are governmental or Khosulati [1]. These publishers have less budget and book sales; especially in the field of revolution and war. Their books are distributed in a certain framework.

        1. I still did not get the answer to my question. Like other oral practitioners, you have mostly cooperated with government publishers such as: Astan Qods Razavi. Do you mean that the concern of material rights is not a priority for most of the oral practitioners who work with government publishers?

Yes. Most of the oral history books are affiliated with government and military publishers, and are written by authors or serviceman authors. From this point of view, material rights are no longer an issue. Because you are practically an employee.

  1. I understand what you mean. So, if we want to know more about the intellectual and material rights of oral history works, it is better to interview private publishers. Of course, I don't think it would be fruitful because most of the oral practitioners are linked with government publishers.

Yes. The publishing market in the field of oral history is dominated by government and military publishers. Everything is politicized and few works are published by private publishers. Government publishers now make an oral history compilation contract with you, you get an initial fee, and maybe your book is reprinted 20 times, but they have nothing to do with you. This is not even mentioned in the contract. It is very rare that a well-written oral practitioner specifies the conditions for the publisher. Many oral history contracts are not book publishing contracts; it is the contract of an oral history project that leads to the publication of the book. These two are different and this is where material and intellectual rights are lost within projects. Regardless of this issue, oral history centers such as NLAI have published their works especially in recent years, and other government organizations also published books such as Oral History of the Central Bank and Oral History of Insurance. These are also supported works and intellectual property is not an issue.

  1. You pointed out that it is very rare that the oral practitioner determines conditions for contracts. So what do prominent people active in the field of oral history do? Most of them refused to be interviewed about this issue.

There are professionals whose work publishers are fighting over, but their problem is more intellectual than material rights!

  1. Explain more. Give an example.

Oral practitioners often get caught up in the criteria of formal compilation of the centers. Maybe this issue bothers them more than the financial aspect. They should accept to move forward with the structure and time limit of the organization. They also have the problem of policy and different tastes. Because you have an interviewer, narrator and compiler, and you must respect the intellectual rights of these three parties. Now, sometimes the interviewer and the compiler are the same person. The position of narrator should be clear in the text and output. The narrator's memories should not be channeled or put into a structure. Nothing should be missed in his memories. The motive and goals of the narrator should not be lost in the text. The narrator's point of view and thinking should be clearly stated in the book. These are examples of the intellectual rights of the narrator, which are highly respected in the world. The position of interviewer and compiler should also not be lost in the book. In some projects, one person conducts the interview. After some time, the second person enters the story and records the interview again. tendencies and types of questions may differ. New questions would be asked and the content would be changed a bit, and the first interviewer's view would be practically lost in the work. This issue has also happened. Then, the compiler should pay attention to maintain the position of the interviewer in the text and most importantly, the publisher should respect the intellectual rights of these parties. Unfortunately, in Iran, we are not very involved in these issues, especially regarding the intellectual rights of the narrator. Changes in the narrator's views, at least, should be applied in compilation stage. Finally, as the work is made to ordered and all work steps until the publication of the book are channelized, it affects all material and intellectual rights.

  1. Doctor, thank you for the time to talk with the oral history website.



[1] In Islamic Republic of Iran Khosulati enterprises are private enterprises that are under control of revolutionary or governmental foundations and holdings. A portmanteau word combining “khosusi” (private sector) and “dowlati” (state).

Number of Visits: 1729


Full Name:

Is oral history the words of people who have not been seen?

Some are of the view that oral history is useful because it is the words of people who have not been seen. It is meant by people who have not been seen, those who have not had any title or position. If we look at oral history from this point of view, it will be objected why the oral memories of famous people such as revolutionary leaders or war commanders are compiled.

Daily Notes of a Mother

Memories of Ashraf-al Sadat Sistani
They bring Javad's body in front of the house. His mother comes forward and says to lay him down and recite Ziarat Warith. His uncle recites Ziarat and then tells take him to the mosque which is in the middle of the street and pray the funeral prayer (Ṣalāt al-Janāzah) so that those who do not know what the funeral prayer is to learn it.

A Critique on Oral history of War Commanders

“Answering Historical Questions and Ambiguities Instead of Individual-Organizational Identification”
“Oral history of Commanders” is reviewed with the assumption that in the field of war historiography, applying this method is narrated in an advancing “new” way, with the aim of war historiography, emphasizing role of commanders in creation of its situations and details.
A cut from memoirs of Jalil Taeffi

Escaping with camera

We were in the garden of one of my friends in "Siss" on 26th of Dey 1357 (January 16, 1979). We had gone for fun. It was there that we heard the news of Shah's escape from the local people. They said that the radio had announced. As soon as I heard this news, I took a donkey and went on its back.