Based on the premise that only in being accessible can the film reach its potential for history making, the contribution of the film archive to a particular film historical narrative is fragmented: the films that are extant are not necessarily available and the ones that are available are not necessarily publicly accessible. The contention of the thesis is that ‘doing’ film history in the context of the film archive should always be seen in light of an ever increasingly narrowing fragmentation of accessible material that takes place in the film archive. What is new about the contribution of this thesis is not that the film archive can be seen simultaneously as a result of a particular historical narrative as well as contributing to one, but that this debate is put in the context of copyright as a determining factor of why the accessible part of the film archive is only a partial picture. To this end, the thesis proposes a reorganisation of existing categories of analysis in the form of a cross-section of the film archive based on copyright ownership plotted against the material’s ‘availability’. By such practices as using a risk-managed approach to copyright clearance for archival digitisation projects, the film archive can be seen to act as a mediator between copyright and film historiography. On the one hand, the film archive is subjected to copyright law, against the constraints of which it can be seen to resist. On the other hand, the archive makes productive use of copyright in its involvement in the interplay between the ownership of the physical objects and the ability to control the subsequent use and dissemination of those objects. Some of these resistant and productive practices, such as found footage filmmaking as a historiographic intervention and providing access to public domain material, are analysed in the context of some of the digital access practices of EYE Film Institute Netherlands between 2002-2005, in which the film archive can be seen to actively shape access to its film archival holdings as well as a particular potential for film history writing.

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