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  • Jan 9th, 2012 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: #38. It's a laudable aim, but...

    Nick - - so you're mad at...everyone? That's so unlike you!

    I don't want to presume, but I can see where I think you're coming from - - trying to make Big Progress in the bight (in the nautical sense) between Government, law, technologists, copyright evangelists, The Public (in aggregate), and pooles (no pun) of heritage organizations thinking about all of their collections. From that perspective, Gunning for the Big Wins but having to deal with the Big Headaches of the lowest common denominator of collective strengths, weaknesses, and neuroses, I’d be mad at everyone too!

    (Below, shadow-boxing with The World, through you. You're welcome.)

    I've been mulling this over and I'm uneasy casting Glyn's Public Domain WTF into the same parent class as a lobby of inflexible Copyright Evangelists and then dismissing it as being an impediment to progress. Glyn isn't saying all content should be free, he's saying that digitized Public Domain materials (like the 17th century mathematical treaties and 19th century newspapers described in his post) should not be enclosed in faux copyright or restrictive terms-of-use statements - - especially when the holding Institutions are publicly funded. I think public institutions could afford to do this—I think they can't afford not to do it.

    Most of the institutions I've talked to and studied attempt to restrict access to digital reproductions of public domain works because they think they're making money off of them. With some groups of content they are (arguably, depending on how they account for cost-to-market), but as you know there's a lot of evidence that that most heritage organizations lose money running licensing and rights-and-repro offices for their digital collections - - even when they only count a fraction of their true cost-to-market in their balance sheets. (I'm thinking of Simon Tanner's 2004 Mellon Foundation study and the V&A Images study - - {ref: http://smithsonian-webstrategy.wikispaces.com/Public+Domain+and+Image+Sales+References }). I wonder if we could lose just as much money—but get better civic outcomes—giving the public domain stuff away—in harmony with our missions and with the intended purpose of PD law (in the US at least)? Our digital strategy says we should do exactly that.

    I've also found that only a few organizations have teams with a solid grasp of digital content issues, public domain and copyright issues, business acumen, and desirable mission-based outcomes - - and can put them in the same room at the same time and allow them to share credit for each others' success. Without this kind of cross-disciplinary teamwork it's hard to imagine any other way to create value from digitized public domain content than to treat our online holdings like a rental property and let gatekeepers directly charge for limited access to the inventory.

    A final thought: digitizing heritage collections doesn't have to be an enormous public works project like roads or railways. In that analogy, the big infrastructure has already been built: it's the Internet. The rest can be (and probably will be) small pieces loosely joined. It's already happened - - huge aggregate numbers of small batches of useful things put online in an effort spread across individual collections, departmental work groups, volunteers, experts, and citizens. The work has already been done, the content is there, and we're pissing off what are potentially our super-fans, donors, and most passionate advocates by (what I personally feel is) gaming the system. We're also throttling re-use, which creates a negative feedback loop that undermines our efforts to convince new funders and long-tail audiences that heritage collections are worth supporting - - are worth fighting for.

    [And this article and thread aren't complete without a link to Yale's new(ish) public domain policy and associated documents/statements. (Trail head at same link as above: http://smithsonian-webstrategy.wikispaces.com/Public+Domain+and+Image+Sales+References ) Yale does an awesome job of laying out the arguments for unrestricted access to high-quality public domain materials from the perspectives of mission, money, leadership, and the law. Quite well done.]

  • Jan 5th, 2012 @ 3:52pm

    Re: #38. It's a laudable aim, but...

    Nick - - Help! As part of our ongoing trans-continental candle-lit romantic discussion of this topic, can you clarify which argument and which actor you're taking an issue with?

    Are members of the public (which includes 10-year-olds and Nobel Laureates) wrong to want/expect memory institutions - - in exchange for (some combination of) tax exempt status, public financing, philanthropic support (often aided by tax-exemptions or tax advantages), tremendous real-estate, and lofty mission statements crafted to earn and maintain ongoing public trust (and all those great benefits listed above) - - to give them access to the high-quality public domain resources that they've already digitized, without unnecessary restrictions, and in accordance with the intent and letter of the law in their local jurisdictions?

    Or are you saying that the public is right to want this, but is asking The Wrong People to pay the bill?