Sound and Video Policy and Application Form

Archives of the A.A. General Service Office


The G.S.O. Archives collection’s sound and moving image recordings include productions by the G.S.O., individual A.A. members, and friends of A.A.  The sound recordings include conferences, meetings, and other special events; speeches by Bill W. and other early A.A. pioneers; oral history interviews; and more.  These recordings have great significance to the history of Alcoholics Anonymous, and help carry the message of the Fellowship of A.A.  

For any researcher, we will endeavor to provide access to these historical materials.  However, we are bound by several factors that may limit our ability to provide access or permitted copy of a recording when requested.   In most cases the General Service Office does not hold copyright for the recordings.  Many of the items are unique and in some cases the Archives retains the only known copy.  In addition, many recordings reveal A.A. members’ identities or contain other sensitive content.  Because of the one-of-a-kind nature of these items and the G.S.O. Archives commitment to A.A.’s guiding principles, the following policies and restrictions apply to their duplication and use.

Procedures for Access

Researchers wishing to learn about our holdings, or wishing to listen to specific sound recordings or view archival film recordings should first contact the archives by mail, phone, or email.  Each request will be considered individually.  Depending on the needs of the researcher and the types of materials requested, a researcher may have to establish approval with the trustees’ Archives Committee before being given access to the materials.  The trustees’ Archives Committee meets to decide on these requests three times each year. In special cases, consideration can be obtained at other times.  If the request requires this approval, the archivists will direct the user through the application process.  

Archives staff may have to view and/or listen to recordings to determine subject content and/or suitability for outside distribution and duplication, paying particular attention to issues of anonymity.  This service is simply a preliminary listening/viewing to determine content, and no transcription will result.  If the user requires a transcription, this will be done by a professional transcription service and additional charges may apply.

Given our limited staff resources, we ask researchers to restrict their requests for duplication to a reasonable quantity of material.  The G.S.O. Archives reserves the right to impose limits on the amount of material that can be requested at any given time and by any one individual.  In most cases, due to staff resources and copyright restrictions, a limit of one copy per item per request will be imposed. Duplication requests will be filled in a timely manner based on staff responsibilities.  If a separate vendor must be engaged to make a copy, the charge will be passed on to the researcher at cost.  Note that certain formats cannot be duplicated because of a lack of compatible duplication equipment.  

• On-site access

Assuming access is permitted, sound recordings or moving images are available for on-site listening or viewing. Researchers must make prior arrangements with the Archives so that proper playback and listening equipment can be made available. 

• Access copies and Restrictions

The G.S.O. Archives reserves the right to restrict duplication due to concerns of copyright, anonymity, privacy, condition of the material, donor restrictions, and policy determinations recommended by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., its General Service Office, and the General Service Conference and adopted by the General Service Board through its committee process. 

• Copyright

If the Archives staff has any reason to believe that duplicating a videotape or sound recording will violate U.S. Copyright Law, they will refuse the request.

The person requesting the reproduction assumes all responsibility for infraction of copyright, or any use that exceeds fair use provisions.  Any commercial application, publication or distribution by rental, lease, or lending of copyrighted materials is not fair use and always requires the consent of the copyright holder. This includes but is not limited to distributing CD or DVD copies, streaming, uploading or posting on the Internet. Permission to reproduce does not constitute permission to publish – see below for publication restrictions. For further information about copyright, consult the U.S. Copyright Office:

• Anonymity

In keeping with A.A’s 11th and 12th Traditions on anonymity, users are restricted from revealing the name of any A.A. member(s), living or deceased.  A.A. members’ anonymity, including the co-founders, must be maintained at the level of the public media, including works published in print and on the Internet.  In each situation, the final decision to reveal the A.A. membership of a deceased member rests with the family. G.S.O.’s Public Information Policy on the Co-Founders’ Posthumous Anonymity serves as guidance in Public Information activity surrounding A.A.’s co-founders.  A copy of this Policy may be furnished upon request. If applicable, the Archives will require users to commit in writing to preserving A.A. members’ identities from disclosure.

• Condition

Sound and video recording media (VHS tapes, cassettes, etc.) are typically fragile, and degrade quickly.  Frequent use quickens this deterioration.  The Archives Department will always act to ensure the survival of its audio recordings, and may deny any request that could not be granted without damaging the original recording.  

• Donor Restrictions 

Some donors of audio or video material may have imposed restrictions on access as a condition of the donor agreement. These will always be respected. 

• General Service Conference Audio Recording Policy

Access to audio recordings of A.A.’s annual General Service Conference is in accordance with a 2015 General Service Conference Advisory Action:

Audio recordings of General Service Conference presentations published in the General Service Conference Final Report and audio recordings of the trustees’ farewell talks given at the closing brunch be made available in accordance with Archives’ Policies. Access to all other General Service Conference sessions will continue to be prohibited.

Audio recordings of the General Service Conference, as specified in the Advisory Action above, are accessible for either on-site listening, or an access copy may be created for the user. 

Distribution and Publication Restrictions 

Permission to access our materials and have copies made does not signify that a researcher has been given permission to publish or further copy the material.  Users will not be permitted to create duplicate l copies of sound recordings or videos for the purpose of selling, re-licensing or widespread distribution. Users are not permitted to duplicate footage of any moving image material via digital devices, cameras, screen capturing, or any other media. 

It is the users’ responsibility to secure all necessary permissions from the copyright owner before making commercial, broadcast, or other use of this material.  Refer to section on “Copyright” above.  

G.S.O. Archives restricts use of its recordings in television, video, motion picture, and all other media productions, including posting on the Internet.  For use in these media, when we own the copyright, separate permission must be obtained from A.A.W.S.  The archivist can assist you in making your request to the right staff. Any reproduction of the material shall be solely for the use described in the submitted application and may not be reused in subsequent works without obtaining express written consent from the copyright owner. Furthermore, a researcher may not alter the recordings in any manner. 

It is solely the responsibility of the researcher to obtain all necessary permissions from the copyright owner which may own or claim any proprietary rights whatsoever under statutory or common law  before publishing any previously unpublished material.  In many cases neither A.A.W.S. nor the General Service Board holds copyright for the audiovisual materials in its collections.  Permission to publish sound recordings or moving images from the collection must be obtained from the copyright owner. 

In order to access audio or film materials from the G.S.O. Archives Collection, researchers must complete the Application for Limited Use of Sound or Film Recording and read and agree to the Terms and Conditions.


The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be used for any purpose than private study, scholarship or research. If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use", that user may be liable for copyright infringement and/or subject to criminal prosecution.