Yesterday, after a review of more than three years, the Ombudsman of Israel informed Akevot Institute that the IDF and Defense Establishment Archive (IDEA) would no longer ban archive users from making their own copies of archival materials open for public access.
In recent years, the IDEA has not allowed archive users to take photos of archival materials displayed on the computer screens in its reading room. Instead, copies of the materials had to be purchased from the IDEA at a substantial cost. In February 2017, Akevot Institute researcher, Adam Raz, filed a complaint with the Ombudsman of Israel, stating the policy presented a substantial financial barrier to researchers who use the archive and undermined research. A similar critique was included in Point of Access, a report Akevot Institute published in the spring of 2016.
Following the complaint, the Ombudsman (a division of the State Comptroller’s office) conducted a lengthy inquiry with the Ministry of Defense, and in August 2019, delivered its conclusion that the complaint was justified (Hebrew). One of the finings made by the Ombudsman was that there was no legal basis for the IDEA’s decision to charge a fee for copies of archival materials. Over the course of the review process, archive fees for copies were initially reduced and later dropped altogether for academic researchers.
Akevot Institute has now received the final response in the matter, indicating that starting May 5, 2020, archive users will be able to take photos of documents in the IDEA reading room. This is excellent news for archive users, researchers, journalists, academics and anyone who values access to archival materials – which belong to the public. The archive itself has yet to announce the full cancellation of fees, which, as recalled, were found to have no legal basis.