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Category: intellectual.property

Bravo, Walters!

llama, chamay culture, earthenware, 1000-1470

llama, chamay culture, earthenware, 1000-1470

The Walters Art Museum has donated some 19,000 images of works from their collections to Wikimedia. They are among the museums — another is the Getty — who reject the spurious claim of some institutions that they can control the copyright on works that are hundreds of years old. In 2006 they removed admission fees. In 2011 they made 20,000 images available on their website through a Creative Commons license. I endorse this attitude, which promotes the free exchange of ideas and furthers the institution’s educational mission in a dramatic and effective way.

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via artdaily.org

Creative Commons

flickr cc

If you will glance down at the footer on this page (or follow the “about” or “policies” links) you will see that I have replaced my copyright notices with creative commons ones. I’m hardly a leader in this — as a guy who has worked in book publishing for many years I have had the notion of copyright deeply ingrained. And there remain a few pieces, like my article on Gutenberg and the Koreans for example, that need to remain under copyright because of publishing arrangements.

But as a blogger I know that people want and need materials they can use readily and with a minimum of fuss. If I want this for myself, why should I deny it to others? Information, it is said, wants to be free, and I don’t want to be the one to enslave it.

Creative Commons is especially helpful when you need an image to accompany something you’re writing about. Flickr makes this wonderfully easy. By going to http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/ you can search for photos that have been uploaded with a CC license. As a photo user I would always start there and only go through the hassle of contacting owners of copywrited photos if really necessary. As you can see from the Flickr CC search page, CC licenses have several flavors:

  • Attribution License
  • Attribution-NoDerivs License
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License
  • Attribution-NonCommercial License
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License
  • Attribution-ShareAlike License

I’m not sure which is best — there are arguments for each, I suppose — but I chose Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs, in part because this was the most popular among Flickr users, so it’s probably where the majority of the searches will occur. (Is this the best choice? Let me know your thoughts.)

There are a few websites that automate Flickr CC searches, including:

Behold seems to apply some kind of quality filter to search results. FlickCC lets you browse through thumbnails, at 36 to the page. A screenshot from this site is shown above.

There is also a WordPress plugin called PhotoDropper that lets you search for Flickr CC photos from within the WordPress dashboard. Once a photo is selected it will automatically insert the photo along with any required credit. Cool, but I have not installed it because it sounds like your ability to format the results is limited.

Finally, I would like to see the CC logo — which looks like a copyright symbol but with two cees rather than one — become a standard glyph in fontsets.

creative commons loog

Links

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Universal Google?

In D-Lib magazine David Bearman provides an abstract of the argument Jean-Noël Jeanneney (President of the Bibliothèque nationale de France) presents in his Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge: A View from Europe (University of Chicago Press, October 2006). Jeanneney argues:

  1. Google’s selection skews “the world’s knowledge” toward English-language texts, especially those from the U.S. (For example, searches for Dante, Cervantes and Goethe find not the original texts but English translations.)
  2. Google snippets decontextualize texts, and the works presented so far are poor in visual quality.
  3. Google Books SERPS inappropriately rank results, perhaps with a bias toward results with commercial ramifications.
  4. There are dangers with the privitization of collective knowledge. Google has already shown a complicity with censorship in China.
  5. Google’s liberal interpretation of copyright laws may not fully respect the legal or moral rights of authors.

Bearman concludes his abstract by expressing his opinion that “Jean-Noël Jeanneney has done us all a service by reminding us to look under the hood and hold Google, and those providing content to it, accountable. In the two years since Google first announced its ambitions, I think the D-Lib community has largely given Google the benefit of the doubt; now that some results are visible and the implications are more clear, I think it’s time to publicly endorse open access to rights-cleared, high quality, scanned page images and reconsider the appropriate roles for academic and public institutions participating in commercial analogue heritage conversion efforts that don’t contribute to this end.”

this item first noted at if:book

In related news: a few months ago Google announced a new program, Google Purge, as part of “a far-reaching plan to destroy all the information it is unable to index.”

Authorship and the Web

On a worldwide web where anybody can post anything any time (unless they live in a place like China, but that’s a subject for another post), how can we identify original content? How much does proper attribution matter?

There’s a whole parasitic industry of taking other people’s content and manipulating it to draw hits and bring in income from advertising. (The essence of this kind of work is not high percentage yield but just sheer volume, so they are avaricious for content.) For example, a few weeks ago someone stole my article on if historical figures had been webmasters and posted it as if it were their own work, without any attribution or acknowledgment of my authorship. In the on-line world such copying has become so common as to seem trivial. Even entire sites may be duplicated.

Consider a couple of examples from just the past few days. First, at SEOmoz a scraper included in a post making fun of her an e-mail from a woman who felt she had been wronged. The e-mail was only removed on advice of counsel. Following up on this, Graywolf made a couple of posts on his popular SEO blog that were designed to manipulate search engine results to punish the woman (SEOEgghead spoke up on her behalf).

Did the woman have a legitimate complaint? Does she have a right to “own” search results on her name and business, or are they fair game for anyone to use as they wish?

In another current case a columnist for the Daily Telegraph posted a column that was pulled word for word from a blogger’s entry. (No explanation yet from the paper or the columnist.)

According to the Berne convention, “Independently of the author’s economic rights, and even after the transfer of the said rights, the author shall have the right to claim authorship of the work and to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of, or other derogatory action in relation to, the said work.”

Have such rights become merely theoretical? Do they continue to have meaning in a great collective enterprise like the web? Is it inevitable that technology tends to remove content from individual control? I’d love to know your thoughts.

Some rights reserved 2018 Right Reading. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons (attribution, noncommercial, no derivs: 3.0) License (US), although some of the work this blog incorporates may be separately licensed. Text and images by Thomas Christensen unless otherwise noted. For print permissions or other inquiries please request via rightreading.com/contact.htm.