Copyright Miscellaneous 1922-1962

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
  • Dates of Creation
      1922 - 1962
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Primarily English, although some papers are written in foreign languages.
  • Physical Description
      Circa 2,065 files (c125 linear feet)

Scope and Content

The files contain papers generated through the activities of the BBC copyright section in relation to contributor rights. The files include copyright permissions for both television and radio use dating before 1963. (The official dates for this Registry sequence were for papers created between 1922 and 1962, but Accession Books list files as dating from the 1930s onwards.) Paperwork is held in relation to national, regional and overseas programmes.

These papers are arranged into small clumps for each contributor and refer to those who did not have enough dealings with the copyright section before 1963 to warrant a personal file.

The papers can cover the entire process for clearing rights for the use of radio and television broadcasts.

The papers include internal correspondence between the copyright section and the different programme departments, external correspondence between the copyright section and rights holders, and contracts. Occasionally complete trails of correspondence with external contributors are included for reference for the copyright section, when usually these papers would be filed separately in the RCONT2 - 6 and RCONT8 - 11 series.

There were different types of contracts issued by the copyright section depending on the material the rights were being assigned from. Therefore the papers cover the copyright procedures for gaining rights for scripts, translations, music, the copying of music, stories, choreography and poetry. The rights could be for the use of the whole material, extracts or adaptations.

The requests for copyright permissions came from all kinds of departments including Talks, Drama, Variety, Schools, Children’s Hour and Gramophone Programmes.

On occasion the copyright holder of some works was unknown and so the copyright section would actively trace copyright holders for permission to use works that were already published.

The usual procedure would be for the programme department to issue a request to the programme copyright section with information about the rights holder such as name, address, the material to be used, and broadcast dates (sometimes ‘future use’). The copyright section would then issue a contract to the contributor. The contract would be either rejected or signed and returned to the copyright section. A memo would be sent by the copyright section back to the original department and copied to programme finance to arrange payment of any fees due.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Central Registry administered large quantities of contracts and correspondence with contributors to various radio programmes. Different types of programme contribution required different types of contract, which were issued by different offices. Therefore, separate file sequences were held by the Central Registry for artists, speakers, scriptwriters, composers, music copyists, music publishers, children’s programmes, light entertainment, copyright and gramophone recitals.

Whilst larger contract files were amalgamated into one sequence of personal files for main contributors, the files of smaller miscellaneous clumps retained their separate runs according to type of programme contribution and the different offices they originated from.


The series is arranged in a run of folders, each containing a number of small clumps of papers that are grouped together for each contributor. These clumps of papers were not deemed sufficiently bulky enough to warrant their own personal files, and so were filed as ‘miscellaneous’.

The papers are arranged alphabetically according to the surnames of contributors. The files containing the papers are therefore arranged in alphabetical sequence, although some popular surnames have their own separate file within the sequence.

The files are unnumbered, but each file is labelled with the alphabetical range it covers. There are currently no file lists of individual titles or file level descriptions available.

The papers in this sequence are held within grey file covers, distinguishing them from the buff coloured personal files of RCONT1 .

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Grey files containing written material pinned in clumps.

Custodial History

These files were originally created and held by the Central Registry. Papers were forwarded to the Registry from the relevant booking departments of the BBC, who were responsible for booking artists for performances.

The continual increase in paperwork holdings led to difficulties with storage space in the late 1960s. At the time ‘nominal’ files were housed in the Central Registry, registry stores, and other locations across the BBC, such as Ware.

The process of reorganising the Central Registry holdings began towards the end of 1968. A proposal was put forward to amalgamate all holdings and then to split the files into two distinct groups according to date. Papers dating to 31 December 1962 would be stored at Caversham, whilst later papers would remain with the Registry in London. Semi-current files from 1 January 1963 to 31 December 1967 would be held in a storage area of the Langham whilst files dating from 1 January 1968 would be kept as the current group of files on the ground floor.

It was originally suggested that the grouping of files would continue in five year runs. When the ‘current’ grouping of files reached the end of the five year period they would be moved to the store to make space for new run of files to be opened on the ground floor. Those already held in store would be transferred to Caversham. This arrangement led to the first three sequences of radio contributor files covering the following periods; circa 1922 to 1962, 1963 to 1967, and 1968 to 1972. However, in 1976 the Chief Registry and Records Officer suggested that the next split should be made after 10 years rather than 5 due to space and the costs incurred by the purchase of new file covers.

In 1975 the Written Archives Centre in Caversham assumed responsibility for the pre-1963 files it had been storing on behalf of the Central Registry. These files would be accessioned as the RCONT1 series. The Written Archives Centre also assumed responsibility for the concurrent runs of ‘miscellaneous’ files, which were accessioned as RCONT2 - RCONT11 .

Due to the transfer of the files from being stored to permanently held by Caversham, the date that these files were received by the Written Archives Centre has been recorded as 1975 in the accession books.

Whilst the RCONT7 series was accessioned, no file list of individual titles or similar finding aid was created.

Related Material

BBC/R/RCONT/RCONT1 is a concurrent run that contains personal files for individual contributors for correspondence and contractual papers before 1963. These are ‘main’ files where there were sufficient papers on one contributor to warrant a file for each one. The files for these contributors from different departments were amalgamated into one run within the RCONT1 series.

BBC/R/RCONT/RCONT2 - RCONT6 and BBC/R/RCONT/RCONT8 - RCONT11 are concurrent runs of miscellaneous papers dating before 1963. Similar to RCONT7 , they hold the papers of those who generated an insufficient quantity of material to warrant the creation of a personal file. They originated from the different departments under radio and hold papers for contributors that do not include copyright contracts.

Later radio contributor papers are held in continuing sequences under the sub-sub-fonds BBC/R/RCONT: Radio Artists and Contributors .

BBC/CORP/CCONT/RCONT18 and BBC/CORP/CCONT/RCONT19 are the continuing runs for main and miscellaneous copyright files respectively, covering the period 1963-1969.

The sub-sub-fonds BBC/T/TVART: Television Artists and Contributors holds equivalent files for this period for televison contributors in the TVART1 and TVART2 series. Later papers are held in continuing sequences in this section.

The sub-fonds BBC/NR: Nations and Regions holds contributor files for bookings that were made outside of London ( BBC/NR/M: Midlands Region, BBC/NR/NI: Northern Ireland, BBC/NR/N: North Region, BBC/NR/SC: Scotland, BBC/NR/SE: South East Region, BBC/NR/SW: South West Region, BBC/NR/WA: Wales and BBC/NR/WE: West Region ). Some artists may have papers in both the sub-sub-fonds BBC/R/RCONT and sub-fonds BBC/NR .

Long Term Contracts for contributors may be found in separate series under BBC/T/TVART/T49 for television and BBC/R/RCONT/R94 for radio.