The Getty Museum's Lessons Learned From Opening Up Content

from the stuff-to-think-about dept

Three years ago, we wrote about the Getty Museum's wise decision to fully support open content (it's important to note that this is the Getty Museum, and not the unrelated stock photo company, Getty Images, a known copyright troll). We were excited to see the museum embracing open access, and taking a principled moral stand on the issue:
Why open content? Why now? The Getty was founded on the conviction that understanding art makes the world a better place, and sharing our digital resources is the natural extension of that belief. This move is also an educational imperative. Artists, students, teachers, writers, and countless others rely on artwork images to learn, tell stories, exchange ideas, and feed their own creativity. In its discussion of open content, the most recent Horizon Report, Museum Edition stated that "it is now the mark -- and social responsibility -- of world-class institutions to develop and share free cultural and educational resources."
This is why we were similarly excited about the NY Public Library embracing the public domain, while disappointed in institutions like the UK's National Portrait Gallery try to lock up content behind questionable copyright claims. Making art and culture more widely available is an important moral imperative.

So it's interesting to see an update from The Getty about how its efforts to embrace openness are going. So far, so good, but they've discovered that actually implementing openness runs into some challenges that are interesting to discuss. But, first the good news:
since 2013 the Getty has released over 100,000 more images through the Open Content Program, and we are increasingly using open licenses for Getty-developed content including selected digital publications, Research Institute archival finding aids, Getty Museum online collection data, Getty Conservation Institute teaching and learning resources, and even the very blog you are reading right now. Throughout, our priority in developing openly licensed resources has been to make the Getty’s work as widely available and usable as possible, while retaining the right to attribution.
The article includes two specific case studies which highlight how tricky this can be and the case of freeing up access to Pietro Mellini's Inventory in Verse, from 1681 is an interesting example. At first glance, it seems like it should be easy. It's from 1681. The work is in the public domain. They also note that the original is in their collection so they don't need anyone else's permission in terms of digitizing it (and they agree that the digitization is in the public domain as well). The essays and translations that go with it were all done by Getty or Getty contractors so it holds whatever copyright there might be. And yet... there were still issues, in that some of the related images were from third party sources, and that created some concerns:
The only sticking points were the handful of images from third-party sources, for which permission had been sought and granted before the decision was made to make Mellini open access. In other words, the original permissions requests were simply for a digital publication, without any mention of CC-BY licensing, and thus contractual considerations prevented us from openly licensing the material.
So even in trying to provide wider access to a public domain work, there were issues around related information that had been licensed under different terms.

As the Getty notes, this is why it's kind of important for more museums (and others) to embrace a kind of "open first" principle -- so that they're taking care of these issues from the start, rather than having to back into them later.
it’s much easier to build an openly licensed project from the ground up than it is to make a project open after the fact. When open access is a project goal from the outset, it helps guide decision-making, especially with respect to contracts with collaborators and consultants, and the sourcing of images and code.
There's some other good stuff in there as well, including the fun of trying to open source software that involves modules from different sources with different kinds of open source licenses, but it's good to see this kind of knowledge sharing even on how to be better about knowledge (and culture) sharing...

Reader Comments

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  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 19 Aug 2016 @ 5:57am

    Dear Getty Images

    If copyright trolling doesn't work for you. Try trademark trolling. Here is your first target, look at this . . .

    $ ps -ax | grep getty
    820 tty4 Ss+ 0:00 /sbin/getty -8 38400 tty4
    822 tty5 Ss+ 0:00 /sbin/getty -8 38400 tty5
    828 tty2 Ss+ 0:00 /sbin/getty -8 38400 tty2
    829 tty3 Ss+ 0:00 /sbin/getty -8 38400 tty3
    832 tty6 Ss+ 0:00 /sbin/getty -8 38400 tty6
    1566 tty1 Ss+ 0:00 /sbin/getty -8 38400 tty1

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Aug 2016 @ 6:21am

      Re: Dear Getty Images

      Getty Images != Getty Museum. Indeed the first wants to charge for every use of all the worlds images, while the second is trying to make the images they have in their collection available for free,

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

      • identicon
        Ben L, 19 Aug 2016 @ 7:24am

        Re: Re: Dear Getty Images

        The Getty Museum and Getty Images can both have their way; the museum open-sources the images and Getty Images charges people to use them. Win-win!

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 19 Aug 2016 @ 10:13am

      Re: Dear Getty Images

      Did you not even read the first sentence?

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

  • icon
    Steerpike (profile), 19 Aug 2016 @ 9:15am

    Glad to see this update regarding the Getty Museum. It's a great museum, and I'm pleased that they've gone down this path.

    Not sure why people can't make the distinction between the museum and Getty Images, particularly given that it is explicitly stated in the first line of this article.

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

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