Culture

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
copyright, library, public domain

Companies:
ny public library



NY Public Library Embraces The Public Domain Big Time: Releases 180,000 High Resolution Images

from the do-what-you-want-with-them dept

There's some wonderful news from the NY Public Library, which has released over 180,000 high resolution digital images of public domain works that it found in its collection. We've seen too many organizations, mainly museums, try to claim copyright over public domain works, or otherwise limit access. The NY Public Library, on the other hand, is going the other direction. Not only are they releasing these works and making it clear that the works are in the public domain, but they're releasing them as high resolution images and actively encouraging people to make use of them.

In an interview with the NY Times, there are some fantastic quotes showing how seriously they take this. This isn't just an "Oh, here, let's dump some public domain material." The NYPL is taking this seriously:
“We see digitization as a starting point, not end point,” said Ben Vershbow, the director of NYPL Labs, the in-house technology division that spearheaded the effort. “We don’t just want to put stuff online and say, ‘Here it is,’ but rev the engines and encourage reuse.”
And others are noticing as well:
“It’s not just a data dump,” said Dan Cohen, the executive director of the Digital Public Library of America, a consortium that offers one-stop access to digitized holdings from more than 1,300 institutions.

The New York Public has “really been thinking about how they can get others to use this material,” Mr. Cohen continued. “It’s a next step that I would like to see more institutions take.”
And part of this is about actually making the damn stuff useful, so they're creating APIs to do more with the collection as well. And they've launched a Remix Residency program to encourage creators to create amazing new works building on all this public domain culture. They also have some cool examples to inspire other ideas, such as Mansion Maniac, an online game letting people explore mansion floor plans from early 20th century New York. More recent plans would be fun too, but sorry kids, those are locked up under copyright. There's also another example, using images of New York City streets in 1911 and mashing them up with Google's street view images of today.

There's lots of fun stuff in the collection as well, including a ton of old maps, and other oddities. For example, playing around, I found what looks like an old "check" written by Thomas Jefferson:
Or how about this menu for breakfast at the Tremont House in July of 1859:
This is a very cool collection and hopefully more libraries will take the hint... and that many people will make useful things out of this collection.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Mark Wing, Jan 8th, 2016 @ 3:44am

    It's just great to see some libraries remaining relevant.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    That One Guy (profile), Jan 8th, 2016 @ 3:53am

    Disaster-proofing history

    At least one useful thing has already been created thanks to their actions: Redundant backups.

    With the works digitized and made freely available that means there's a lot more backups of them, such that one fire, one flooded room, or some other disaster can no longer wipe everything out. That alone justifies their actions, everything beyond that is just extras.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Ninja (profile), Jan 8th, 2016 @ 5:36am

    Huge win for Public Domain! Sadly we still have way too many things in the copyright dark hole...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2016 @ 6:25am

    Images of public domain documents

    Images of public domain documents are in the public domain, as there is nothing new about the images.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2016 @ 9:39am

    Re: Images of public domain documents

    Yes, that is a valid statement. Thank you for participating.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2016 @ 11:15am

    Re: Disaster-proofing history

    Said backups including individuals who are so taken by the image(s) that they save a copy to their device.

    (Just think: this can become like music: so many copies of a particular song exists in the world that it will never be lost!)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2016 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re: Disaster-proofing history

    Yes, that's a good thing. Thank you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2016 @ 4:51pm

    "No!" rose the collective screams of antidirt and Whatever. "Noooooooooooooo!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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