Talk about pressure

When David Bollier was going on to the stage to give a presentation on the commons he noticed…

As I got up to speak, I paused and gulped: there in the audience was the pioneering scholar of the commons, Elinor Ostrom.

Talk about pressure! But all’s well that ends well:

I finished my presentation, and later saw Professor Ostrom ten yards away, down the hallway of the church. She flashed me a big smile and a “thumbs up.” What a relief! Two days later, I learned that she had won the Nobel Prize for Economics.

Read the whole story on On The Commons blog.

Runes and churches from the RAÄ

Another selection of photographs from the Swedish National Heritage Board have gone online at Flickr Commons. The latest batch (20 images to begin with) are photographs of churches and ancient monuments and the Heritage Board hopes that these images will both be appreciated by the public and that the public will contribute with information about the images as well as tagging and commenting them.

How about a nice rune?

Runic inscription (U 308) on a rock at Ekeby, north-west of Skånela Church.

The inscription says: “Gunne had these runes carved to his memory, while he was alive. Torgöt carved these runes.” – is this the twitter of the past?

Commenting on their selection the National Heritage Board write on their blog:

We on the Flickr Commons team at the National Heritage Board think that these plain and sometimes even a bit anonymous pictures have  something to tell us about the Swedish Cultural Heritage – not in a glamorous or fanciful, but in an honest way. Some of the photographs are taken by scientists or devoted scholars with the purpose to document. Some of the photographers are unknown to us.

We hope these photos will raise an interest in Old Time Sweden with its people, churches and ancient monuments. Welcome to share a part of our Heritage!

Disrespectful handling of digitalized cultural artifacts

On several occasions I have had the opportunity to discuss digitalization of traditional media. In particular to images that are no longer covered by copyright. Those who act as caretakers and gatekeepers for these cultural treasures have long been positive to digitalization – but were quick to discover that digitalization alone is not enough. The turning point of public opinion occurred when the Library of Congress began its pilot project with Flickr in the Flickr Commons. Read more about it on the Library of Congress blog or the report from the pilot.

Despite the anecdotal evidence, the gut feeling and the report some gatekeepers are still concerned about what will happen to “their” images if the plebeian mass can access them freely.

At first I thought their fears stemmed from a loss of income from selling prints, but this seems not to be their main concern even if some do refer to this. There main concern is the way in which the images will be treated.

They fear the disrespectful handling of digitalized cultural artifacts.

Now you may well ask yourselves how a digitalized artifact may be manhandled? Obviously it is not about destruction but there are concerns about use. The legal protection is long gone. The photographs are long since in the public domain and can be used and abused at will. This is of concern to the caretakers/gatekeepers since they have been entrusted with the images in physical form. In almost all cases they have received the photographs with a promise that they are preserving a part of cultural heritage. They believe that in their role as cultural preservers lies a duty to ensure that the photographers honor is not sullied by disagreeable online use.

And they know all too well that once digitalization and access has been granted there is no longer any control.

While I am a copyright minimalist and I think our protection terms are way too long I do feel there is a point here. How can museums and archives fulfill their duty to preserve what they have received in trust while maintaining their duty to provide access to culture?

Then I look at the work done by the Swedish National Heritage Board in relation to this question. They have put a small selection of their images on the Flickr Commons. A mere 274 photographs by Carl Curman (1833-1913).

The photographs have been accessed over 200  000 time since 17 March this year, that’s less than four months! Or 50 000 views per month (K-Blogg).

Besides pushing the almost unknown Carl Curman to a portion of internet fame the project at the Swedish National Heritage Board has brought back to life a set of dead photographs. Image how many times a photograph is seen in it’s lifetime. The average must be depressingly low. The most popular photograph in their project has been viewed 7805 times. Stop. Read the numbers and think. Seven thousand eight hundred and five times.

Stockholm by Carl Curman now seen by one more person: You…

Sure the photo will be ripped off. It will be posted on websites, stored on computers, used in presentations and the name of Carl Curman will be disassociated from the picture he took. Even more certain is that the Swedish Cultural Heritage Board will not be attributed enough for their thankless task of bringing this dead cultural artifact to life. But let us remember the old adage – no good dead goes unpunished.

The role of the caretaker/gatekeeper is, not a they once believed it to be, to prevent access. In the real world, grubby fingers and clumsy handling destroy the real artifact and lose it to the whole world. That is why we should be kept away from the real thing. But in the digital world the same is not true. What the flickr commons shows beyond a doubt is that while digitalization is good, it is nothing without access.

Ask Carl Curman.

More images in the commons

The Creative Commons blog writes about 250,000 images recently donated to Wikimedia Commons, a sister project of Wikipedia.

The images, part of the German Photo Collection at Saxony’s State and University Library (SLUB), are being uploaded with corresponding captions and metadata. Afterward, volunteers will link the photos, all available under Germany’s ported CC BY-SA 3.0 license or in the public domain, to personal identification data and relevant Wikipedia articles. The collection depicts scenes from German history and daily life.

As a bonus for the donating library, the metadata supplied by the German Photo Collection will be expanded and annotated by Wikipedia users, and the results will be seeded back into the collection’s database.

The donation marks the first step in a collaboration between SLUB and Wikimedia Germany e.V., the pioneering Wikimedia chapter who faciliated a similar 100,000-image-strong cooperation with the German Federal Archives last December.

Creative Commons license Creative Commons Attribution Creative Commons Share Alike

This file is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany License.

Viral Spiral, Bollier’s new book

I have been a fan of David Bollier since I read his book Silent Theft so I was happy to see that he had written a new book on the importance of the public domain and the commons. The book, Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a
Digital Republic of Their Own
is also available for download under a Creative Commons license. From the website:

One of the big themes of Viral Spiral is the enormous value generated from making one’s work openly available on the Internet. While publishing traditionalists are skeptical of this new reality, a number of pioneering authors and publishers have shown the commercial appeal of posting their books online using one or another Creative Commons licenses. Among the more notable authors are Cory Doctorow, Lawrence Lessig, James Boyle, Yochai Benkler, Dan Gillmor and Peter Barnes. In the same spirit, New Press has authorized the following download of the text of Viral Spiral. I hope that anyone who has the chance to browse through the PDF version of the book will want to buy a hard copy.

On this day

Here is a weird anniversary I came across on Wikipedia. On this day 164 years ago, the last known pair of Great Auks were killed. Not only is this a strange anniversary but the individuals who were responsible for the final extinction were Jón Brandsson, Sigurður Ísleifsson and Ketill Ketilsson.

The last population lived on Geirfuglasker (“Great Auk Rock”) off Iceland. This island was a volcanic rock surrounded by cliffs which made it inaccessible to humans, but in 1830 the rock submerged, and the birds moved to the nearby island Eldey which was accessible from a single side. The last pair, found incubating an egg, were killed there on 3 July 1844, with Jón Brandsson and Sigurður Ísleifsson strangling the adults and Ketill Ketilsson smashing the egg with his boot. (Wikipedia)

Open Access Guide

The Oak Law project has produced an Open Access guide.

The book Understanding Open Access in the Academic Environment: A Guide for Authors by Kylie Pappalardo (with the assistance of Professor Brian Fitzgerald, Professor Anne Fitzgerald, Scott Kiel-Chisholm, Jenny Georgiades and Anthony Austin) aims to provide practical guidance for academic authors interested in making their work more openly accessible to readers and other researchers.

The guide provides authors with an overview of the concept of and rationale for open access to research outputs and how they may be involved in its implementation and with what effect. In doing so it considers the central role of copyright law and publishing agreements in structuring an open access framework as well as the increasing involvement of funders and academic institutions.

The guide also explains different methods available to authors for making their outputs openly accessible, such as publishing in an open access journal or depositing work into an open access repository. Importantly, the guide addresses how open access goals can affect an author’s relationship with their commercial publisher and provides guidance on how to negotiate a proper allocation of copyright interests between an author and publisher. A Copyright Toolkit is provided to further assist authors in managing their copyright.

The work is licensed under an Australian Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
2.5 License
.