Organisation records created prior to a change of status will remain public records after a change of status. Similarly, Crown copyright and database rights are determined by the circumstances of the creation of the information – if information falls under Crown copyright having been created by Crown employees it will continue to fall under Crown copyright after an organisation has changed status.
A change of status may be in the form of:
- selling of the shares (privatisation) of an organisation
- ownership is taken on by employees, customers or other stakeholders (mutualisation)
- an organisation is converted into a government owned company
Public records must be safeguarded according to obligations laid down by the Public Records Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and any other relevant legislation or codes of practice. Make sure that your successor body is aware of these requirements. Get specialist advice on the management of records held by approved places of deposit from The National Archives as soon as you are aware of proposals for any type of change of status.
You must discuss ownership and access rights with your parent department and consult your parent department’s legal and legislative teams as soon as possible to finalise ownership, copyright and intellectual property requirements.
For more information, please see our guidance on:
Copyright and intellectual property
Discuss ownership of records with your parent department’s legal and legislative teams as soon as you can, and finalise ownership before any change of status. Then explore the assignment of copyright where appropriate, and with the necessary safeguards for the public interest for the information in place. Information and databases produced by Crown bodies are subject to Crown copyright and Crown database protection which is centrally managed by The National Archives. Please contact the Information Policy team at The National Archives for further advice.
The copyright in records and databases created by non-Crown bodies can be assigned to your successor body or to the Keeper of Public Records, who will then allow the material to be made available for re-use. You should agree this with your parent body and The National Archives prior to the change in status taking affect.
Access to records
If the successor body want access to records of permanent value that are being transferred to the parent department, they have to requisition them. Ideally the access and loan rights should be agreed with the parent department prior to the change of status.
In most cases the successor body should be given a copy of the record. If this is not possible due to size or cost limitations a formal loan agreement for the original records should be agreed. The agreement should outline any applicable access restrictions and should stipulate that requisitioned originals are not damaged in any way, that nothing is added or removed, and that the records are returned as soon as they are finished with, and not later than one year after requisition.
Records with ongoing business value may be required by your parent department or by the successor organisation (or both).
Both parent department and successor organisation require records of ongoing business value
In this case, transfer the records to your parent department. Make arrangements for transfer of technology, licences and documentation if needed. The successor organisation will need to agree access and loan rights with your parent department, and in some cases they may be given a copy of the record. This is something you should discuss on a case-by-case basis with your parent department, the successor body and The National Archives.
If you do not yet know who your successor organisation is, you should ensure your parent department knows that they will need to agree access or loan rights with the successor organisation once they come into existence.
Only the successor organisation requires the records
You should agree this with your parent department and The National Archives, and transfer records via statutory instrument (or similar, for example a Memorandum of Understanding).
Before any change of status, you must agree the status of your records with your parent department, and ensure your successor body is aware of this. This means agreeing and documenting what records remain public records after transfer. Note that any records owned by your parent department are automatically public records.
Successor organisation requires access to open public records held at The National Archives
Copies can be requisitioned from The National Archives or other places of deposit. If copies are not available due to size or cost limitations, the relevant bodies must sign a formal loan agreement. If the successor organisation wants access to closed public records, they must discuss this with the parent department.
You must review the sensitivity of records of historical value before any change of status. This means you must identify information that may be exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations. You must note categories of records with particular storage and handling requirements, for example, sensitive personal data or protectively marked material. Please read our guidance on sensitivity reviewing records.