A National Archives Agency preserves official documents, photos, artifacts and records that have important historical value to a country. The purpose of an Archive’s Agency is to preserve these important records for future generations and provide public access to these records.

Why are archive laws so important? Archive laws set out standards for preservation of records and regulations for accurate record-keeping from their creation to disposal or storage.  Archive laws also set mandatory standards for security, storage conditions, protection of records from damage or loss, as well as conditions for storing records in specific mediums.

At first glance, archive law requirements could be understood as being only applicable to governments and their preservation of valuable historical, scientific, social, economic and cultural records.  While most archive laws are focused on government agencies, in some countries, such as the Eastern Block of Europe and China, archive laws can extend record-keeping requirements to include public corporations and non-governmental organizations. Do not be quick to ignore archive laws based on the assumption that they apply only to governments and the retention of historical records. Organizations that are guilty of violating archive law requirements in these countries could potentially bear civil, administrative and criminal liability.

A few areas where an organization could potentially be impacted are as follows:

  • Administrative and internal regulations of an organization
  • Accounting and payroll
  • Tax
  • Labor
  • Occupational accidents and hazards
  • Social security/pensions
  • Environmental

Below are examples that include archive law requirements applicable to some types of corporations and non-governmental organizations:

  • Russia’s Order of August 25, 2010, N 558 on archival documents encompasses “state bodies, local governments and organizations”, while Russia’s Archival Documents of Scientific, Technical and Production Activities Order is applicable to “archival documents on scientific, scientific-technical, production-technical, design and construction activities of organizations, with an indication of the shelf life applied in various sectors of the economy”.
  • China’s National Archives Order 10 applies to “enterprises registered and established within the territory of the People’s Republic of China”.
  • Poland’s Dz. U. 1983 No. 38 item 173 Archive Act applies to “entrepreneurs” and “business activity in the field of personal documentation, storage and payroll of employers with a temporary storage period”.
  • Latvia’s Archival Law applies to “every institution, as well as to individuals, who have documents with archival value…and natural or legal person exercising an economic activity engaged in an economic activity, or on the basis of a contract of employment, business or author, and other persons as well as an association of person”.

When deciding if an archives law applies to your specific industry, it is helpful to look for an explanation of the law on the country’s main archive website or secondary sources. This can help determine the applicability to your specific industry.

It is important to note that countries are updating their archive laws to reflect changing privacy and data protection legislation. Changes to archive laws aim to correct gaps in definitions, transferring of records within a country and cross-border transferring requirements, location requirements, conditions and disposal of records. For example, Poland’s Data Protection Law repealed a fifty-year retention requirement applicable to employers from its Archive Act. Although the retention was repealed from the Archive Act, it can still be found in other employment laws. Because governments are continuously evaluating and strengthening privacy and data protection, there is potential for further repeal of archival record requirements.

If you need help interpreting how archival laws impact your business, contact Zasio and speak with our team of in-house experts.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to provide general education on Information Governance topics. The statements are informational only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the application of the law to your business activities, you should seek the advice of your legal counsel.

Author: Heather Houle, CRA

Author: Heather Houle, CRA

Senior Research Analyst / Certified Paralegal