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The Public Domain “Class of 2014″

Adam Green - December 12, 2013 in Public Domain, Public Domain Review

This is a cross-post from The Public Domain Review, a project of the Open Knowledge Foundation.


Top Row (left to right): George Washington Carver; Sergei Rachmaninoff; Shaul Tchernichovsky
Middle Row (left to right): Sophie Taeuber-Arp; Nikola Tesla; Kostis Palamas; Max Wertheimer
Bottom Row (left to right): Simone Weil; Chaim Soutine; Fats Waller; Beatrix Potter



Pictured above is our top pick of people whose works will, on 1st January 2014, be entering the public domain in those countries with a ‘life plus 70 years’ copyright term (e.g. most European Union members, Brazil, Israel, Nigeria, Russia, Turkey, etc.). As usual it’s an eclectic bunch who have assembled for our graduation photo – including two very different geniuses of the piano, a French mystic, the creator of Peter Rabbit, one of the 20th century’s most important inventors, a poet who penned the Olympic Hymn, and a man known as the “Black Leonardo” who pretty much single-handedly created the peanut industry. The unifying factor bringing them all together is that all died in the year of 1943, and so their works, in many places, will be given a new lease of life as they pass into the public domain.

Below is a little bit more about each of their lives (with each name linking through to their respective Wikipedia pages, from which each text has been based).



BEATRIX POTTER


Beatrix Potter (28th July 1866 – 22nd December 1943) was an English author, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist best known for her imaginative children’s books featuring animals such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit. As a young woman Potter developed a keen interest in drawing, in particular animals, real and imagined, and also insects, fossils, archaeological artefacts, and fungi – and would often fill letters to friends with illustrations. In September 1893, at the age of 27, Potter was on holiday in Perthshire and, running out of things to say in a letter to the ill son of her former governess, she told him a story about “four little rabbits whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter.” It became one of the most famous children’s letters ever written and the basis of Potter’s future career as a writer-artist-storyteller. Eight years later Potter published The Tale of Peter Rabbit, first privately in 1901, and a year later as a small, three-colour illustrated book with Frederick Warne & Co. It would be the first of a series of twenty three extremely popular “tales” involving the exploits of various anthropomorphised animals who lived in the English countryside. Potter was also a great conservationist and with the proceeds from the books and a legacy from an aunt, she purchased a whole series of farms in the lake District in order to preserve the unique hill country landscape. When she died on 22 December 1943 at her home in Near Sawrey at age 77, she left almost all her property to the National Trust. She is credited with preserving much of the land that now comprises the Lake District National Park.


SERGEI RACHMANINOFF


Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff (1st April 1873 – 28th March 1943) was a Russian-born composer, pianist, and conductor. He is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music. Early influences of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and other Russian composers gave way to a personal style notable for its song-like melodicism, expressiveness and his use of rich orchestral colors. The piano is featured prominently in Rachmaninoff’s compositional output, and through his own skills as a performer, helped by his enormous hands, he made huge steps in exploring the expressive possibilities of the instrument.


FATS WALLER


Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller (21st May 1904 – 15th December 1943) was an influential jazz pianist, organist, composer, singer, and comedic entertainer, whose innovations to the Harlem stride style laid the groundwork for modern jazz piano, and whose best-known compositions, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Honeysuckle Rose”, were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame posthumously, in 1984 and 1999. Waller was one of the most popular performers of his era, finding critical and commercial success in his homeland and in Europe. He was also a prolific songwriter and many songs he wrote or co-wrote are still popular, such as “Honeysuckle Rose”, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Squeeze Me”. Fellow pianist and composer Oscar Levant dubbed Waller “the black Horowitz”. Waller composed many novelty tunes in the 1920s and 1930s and sold them for relatively small sums. When the compositions became hits, other songwriters claimed them as their own. Many standards are alternatively and sometimes controversially attributed to Waller. In one now legendary story, Waller was kidnapped in Chicago leaving a performance in 1926. Four men bundled him into a car and took him to the Hawthorne Inn, owned by the mobster Al Capone. Waller was ordered inside the building, and found a party in full swing. Gun to his back, he was pushed towards a piano, and told to play. A terrified Waller realised he was the “surprise guest” at Capone’s birthday party. According to rumour, Waller played for three days. When he left the Hawthorne Inn, he was very drunk, extremely tired, and had earned thousands of dollars in cash from Capone and other party-goers as tips.


NIKOLA TESLA


Nikola Tesla (10th July 1856 – 7th January 1943) was a Serbian American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system. Tesla gained experience in telephony and electrical engineering before emigrating to the United States in 1884 to work for Thomas Edison. He soon struck out on his own with financial backers, setting up laboratories and companies to develop a range of electrical devices. His patented AC induction motor and transformer were licensed by George Westinghouse, who also hired Tesla as a consultant to help develop a power system using alternating current. Tesla is also known for his high-voltage, high-frequency power experiments in New York and Colorado Springs which included patented devices and theoretical work used in the invention of radio communication, for his X-ray experiments, and for his ill-fated attempt at intercontinental wireless transmission in his unfinished Wardenclyffe Tower project. Tesla’s achievements and his abilities as a showman demonstrating his seemingly miraculous inventions made him world-famous and gained him a reputation as an archetypical “mad scientist”.


CHAIM SOUTINE


Chaïm Soutine (13th January 1893 – 9th August 1943) was a French painter of Belarusian Jewish origin who made a major contribution to the expressionist movement while living in Paris. Inspired by classic painting in the European tradition, exemplified by the works of Rembrandt, Chardin and Courbet, Soutine developed an individual style more concerned with shape, color, and texture over representation, which served as a bridge between more traditional approaches and the developing form of Abstract Expressionism. He once horrified his neighbours by keeping an animal carcass in his studio so that he could paint it (Carcass of Beef). The stench drove them to send for the police, whom Soutine promptly lectured on the relative importance of art over hygiene. There’s a story that Marc Chagall saw the blood from the carcass leak out onto the corridor outside Soutine’s room, and rushed out screaming, ‘Someone has killed Soutine.’ Soutine painted 10 works in this series, which have since become his most well-known. His carcass paintings were inspired by Rembrandt’s still life of the same subject, which he discovered while studying the Old Masters in the Louvre. In February 2006, the oil painting from this series called ‘Le Boeuf Écorché’ (1924) sold for a record £7.8 million ($13.8 million) to an anonymous buyer at a Christie’s auction held in London – after it was estimated to fetch £4.8 million.


SIMONE WEIL


Simone Weil (3rd February 1909 – 24th August 1943) was a French philosopher, Christian mystic, and political activist. Weil’s life was marked by an exceptional compassion for the suffering of others; at the age of six, for instance, she refused to eat sugar after she heard that soldiers fighting in World War I had to go without. After her graduation from formal education, Weil became a teacher. She taught intermittently throughout the 1930s, taking several breaks due to poor health and to devote herself to political activism, work that would see her assisting in the trade union movement, taking the side of the Republican faction in the Spanish Civil War, and spending more than a year working as a labourer, mostly in auto factories, so she could better understand the working class. Taking a path that was unusual among twentieth-century left-leaning intellectuals, she became more religious and inclined towards mysticism as her life progressed. Weil wrote throughout her life, though most of her writings did not attract much attention until after her death. Although sometimes described as odd, humourless, and irritating, she inspired great affection in many of those who knew her. Albert Camus described her as “the only great spirit of our times”. She died from tuberculosis during World War II, possibly exacerbated by malnutrition after refusing to eat more than the minimal rations that she believed were available to soldiers at the time.


MAX WERTHEIMER


Max Wertheimer (15th April 1880 – 12th October 1943) was a Prague-born psychologist who was, along with Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Köhler, one of the three founders of Gestalt psychology: a theory of mind and brain which sees the brain as holistic, parallel, and analog, with self-organizing tendencies. The principle maintains that the human eye sees objects in their entirety before perceiving their individual parts, suggesting the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Wertheimer is best known for his work Productive Thinking, as well as his idea of Phi Phenomenon, both important in the founding and development of Gestalt psychology.


SOPHIE TAEUBER_ARP


Sophie Taeuber-Arp (19th January 1889 – 13th January 1943) was a Swiss artist, painter, sculptor, and dancer. She is considered one of the most important artists of geometric abstraction of the 20th century, her textile and graphic works from around 1916 through the 1920s being among among the earliest examples of Constructivism, along with those of Piet Mondrian and Kasimir Malevich. During this period, she was involved in the Zürich Dada movement, which centred on the Cabaret Voltaire, and she took part in Dada-inspired performances as a dancer, choreographer, and puppeteer. At the opening of the Galerie Dada in 1917, she danced to poetry by Hugo Ball wearing a shamanic mask by Marcel Janco. A year later, she was a co-signer of the Zurich Dada Manifesto. In the late 20s Taeuber-Arp moved with her husband, the Dada artist Jean Arp, to Paris. In the 30s, she became a member of the group Cercle et Carré, a standard-bearer of nonfigurative art, and its successor, the Abstraction-Création group; and in the late 1930s she founded a Constructivist review, Plastique (Plastic) in Paris. Her circle of friends included the artists Sonia Delaunay, Robert Delaunay, Wassily Kandinsky, Joan Miró, and Marcel Duchamp. In 1940, Taeuber-Arp and Arp fled Paris ahead of the Nazi occupation and moved to Grasse in Southern France, where they created an art colony with Sonia Delaunay and other artists. In 1943, during a visit to Switzerland, Taeuber-Arp died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning due to a malfunctioning stove.


GEORGE WASHINGTON-CARVER


George Washington Carver (by January 1864 – 5th January 1943), was an American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor. The exact day and year of his birth are unknown; he is believed to have been born into slavery in Missouri in January 1864. Carver’s reputation is based on his research into and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, such as peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes, which also aided nutrition for farm families. He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops both as a source of their own food and as a source of other products to improve their quality of life. The most popular of his 44 practical bulletins for farmers contained 105 food recipes using peanuts. He also developed and promoted about 100 products made from peanuts that were useful for the house and farm, including cosmetics, dyes, paints, plastics, gasoline, and nitroglycerin, and hundreds of more uses for soybeans and sweet potatoes. During the Reconstruction-era South, monoculture of cotton depleted the soil in many areas and in the early 20th century the boll weevil destroyed much of the cotton crop, and planters and farm workers suffered. Carver’s work on peanuts was intended to provide an alternative crop and was vital for the rejuvenation of the blighted region. He received numerous honours for his work, including the Spingarn Medal of the NAACP. In 1941, Time magazine dubbed Carver a “Black Leonardo”. Two years later he died after taking a fall: on his grave was written, He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.


SHAUL TCHERNICHOVSKY


Shaul Tchernichovsky (20th August 1875 – 14th October 1943) was a Russian-born Hebrew poet, considered one of the great poets of the Hebrew language. Born into a small village in the Crimea (now part of Ukraine), he published his first poems in Odessa where he studied from 1890 to 1892. From 1899 to 1906 he studied medicine at the University of Heidelberg, finishing his medical studies in Lausanne. From then on, he mingled his activities as a doctor with his activities as a poet. After completing his studies he returned to Ukraine to practice in Kharkov and in Kiev and then served in the First World War as an army doctor in Minsk and in Saint Petersburg. From 1925 to 1932 he was one of the editors of the newspaper Hatekufa and in 1931 immigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine where he settled permanently. Besides being a poet, Tchernichovsky was known as an excellent translator. His translation of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey particularly earned recognition. He also translated Sophocles, Horace, Shakespeare, Molière, Pushkin, Goethe, Heine, Byron, Shelley, the Kalevala, the Gilgamesh Cycle, the Icelandic Edda, etc. He was also a friend of the distinguished Klausner family of Jerusalem, including the child who would grow up to become the novelist Amos Oz, to whom he was known as “Uncle Shaul.”


KOSTIS PALAMAS


Kostis Palamas (13th January 1859 – 27th February 1943) was a Greek poet who wrote the words to the Olympic Hymn. He was a central figure of the Greek literary generation of the 1880s and one of the cofounders of the so-called New Athenian School (or Palamian School, or Second Athenian School) along with Georgios Drosinis, Nikos Kampas, Ioanis Polemis. He has been informally called the “national” poet of Greece and was closely associated with the struggle to rid Modern Greece of the “purist” language and with political liberalism. He dominated literary life for 30 or more years and greatly influenced the entire political-intellectual climate of his time. Romain Rolland considered him the greatest poet of Europe and he was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature but never received it. His most important poem, “The Twelve Lays of the Gypsy” (1907), is a poetical and philosophical journey. His “Gypsy” is a free-thinking, intellectual rebel, a Greek Gypsy in a post-classical, post-Byzantine Greek world, an explorer of work, love, art, country, history, religion and science, keenly aware of his roots and of the contradictions between his classical and Christian heritages.



And a few others that didn’t make it to the class photo….

Frida Uhl, Stephen Haggard, John Harvey Kellog , Pieter Cornelis Boutens, Stephen Vincent Benét, Oskar Schlemmer , Jovan Dučić , Geoffrey Shaw, Franz Oppenheimer, Max Reinhardt, Robert Antoine Pinchon,

Some people you think we’ve missed? Please let us know in the comments!



Class of 2014 for those countries with a ‘life plus 50 years’ copyright term


There is also of course a Class of 2014 for those countries with a ‘life plus 50 years’ copyright term – including Canada, many countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia. Some might argue that they’ve got an even more impressive line up! Their list of all-star graduates include:

Robert Frost

Sylvia Plath

William Carlos Williams

Louis MacNeice

Jean Cocteau

C. S. Lewis

Aldous Huxley





To learn more about Public Domain Day visit publicdomainday.org. For more names whose works will be going into the public domain in 2014 see the Wikipedia page on 1943 deaths , 1963 deaths, and this great page dedicated to the public domain in 2014.

We also came across this great public domain advent calendar project (in French).

Wondering what published works will enter the public domain in the U.S.? …Nothing.

Wondering if “bad things happen to works when they enter the public domain”? Wonder no more.

(Learn more about the situation in the U.S. and why the public domain is important in this article in Huff Post Books and this from the Duke Law School’s Centre for the Study of the Public Domain).



Announcing the Launch of The Public Domain Review Store

Adam Green - November 12, 2013 in Featured, Public Domain, Public Domain Review

We are very excited to announce the birth of The Public Domain Review Store! To help raise some much needed funds for the project we have made some things to sell, returning a few select gems from a pixel-based existence back into the world of real physical objects from whence they once came. As well as a variety of beautiful straight up prints, we have also designed some special Public Domain Review branded items through which you can profess your love and support of our project to the outside world. Because we have readers from all over the world, and sadly not the time nor resources to set up a merchandise empire, complete with stock-rooms and fleets of packing minions, we have – at least for now – set up a modest store through the print on demand service Zazzle. As well as these print on demand products, we also plan on working with designers and artists to make more “intimately” made objects – such as the wonderful analog GIF player from Officina K – so please do get in touch if you are interested in partnering up.

Visit the store here and start shopping!

decayeddag-poster-withURL-200dpi-SMALL

New partnership to map the public domain in France

Jonathan Gray - November 8, 2013 in Featured, Policy, Public Domain

Last night Aurélie Filippetti, the French Minister for Culture and Communication, announced a new partnership between the French ministry of Culture and Communication and the Open Knowledge Foundation France to take steps towards mapping the public domain in France.

The ‘public domain calculator’ demonstrator project will develop a tool to help establish legal status of cultural works – in particular helping users to determine whether or not they have passed out of copyright and into the public domain. You can watch a video about the partnership here (in French, with English translation coming soon).

In her speech, Minister Filippetti said:

We often say that a work has “fallen” into the public domain, as though it falls into a state of disuse, abandonment or oblivion. In fact, precisely the opposite is true. When a work enters the public domain, it experiences a rebirth. And I want to show that my department recognises this. Therefore, to support our thinking in this area, we have formed a partnership with Open Knowledge Foundation France to develop a prototype of a French public domain calculator using a set of cultural metadata (in this case a selection of metadata about works from the Great War) provided by the National Library of France.

French Minister for Culture and Communication Aurélie Filippetti announcing the partnership between the ministry and Open Knowledge Foundation France.

The announcement was made at a reception at the end of an event on ‘the transmission of culture in the digital age’, which included talks about the value and potential of the digital public domain and open data from cultural institutions.

I gave a keynote talk about the Open Knowledge Foundation’s work on mapping the cultural commons with the public domain calculators, as well as other related initiatives such as OpenGLAM and The Public Domain Review.

Results were presented from a recent ‘mashup workshop’ to encourage creative reuse of public domain works, run by the ministry in partnership with Open Knowledge Foundation France, Wikimedia France and others.

There were also talks from the Rijksmuseum and the British Library about what they are doing to publish and encourage the reuse of open data and open digital copies of public domain works.

Overall the day made clear that the Digital Policy Department at the French ministry of Culture and Communication, under the leadership of Camille Domange, have taken the decision to put the digital commons high up on their agenda.

It is very encouraging to see such strong government recognition of the value of the public domain as an indispensable public good. We applaud France’s leadership in this area, and hope this will inspire other countries to do more to enable the digital public domain to flourish and to take steps to support its reuse for the benefit of citizens – whether for education, creativity, or enjoyment.

If you’re interested in helping to establish a vibrant and open digital public domain in your country, please come and introduce yourself on our Public Domain Working Group.

Getty Releases 4,600 Images into the Public Domain

Sam Leon - August 14, 2013 in News, Open GLAM, Public Domain


A depiction of a banquet by 17th Centruy Italian artist, Morazzone, one of the many scans now in the public domain
A depiction of a banquet by 17th Centruy Italian artist, Morazzone, one of the many scans now in the public domain

Cross-posted from the OpenGLAM Blog.

Yesterday the J. Paul Getty Trust launched its Open Content Program which saw the release of 4,600 high-resolution scans of works from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles into the public domain. This means that the digital images in this new release can be downloaded and re-used without restriction and without the need to get permission. The initial release can be browsed here.

The renowned institution has publicly committed to open up the digital images of all works they own and that are in the public domain or to which they own the rights. Getty president and CEO, Jim Cuno, said of the Open Content Program and the Getty’s commitment to openness:

>The Getty was founded to promote ‘the diffusion of artistic and general knowledge’ of the visual arts, and this new program arises directly from that mission. In a world where, increasingly, the trend is toward freer access to more and more information and resources, it only makes sense to reduce barriers to the public to fully experience our collections.

The Getty joins a growing cohort of leading cultural institutions taking steps to open up their public domain holdings on the web. Recent years have seen similar releases from the Walter’s Art Museum, The British Library and the Rijksmuseum. OpenGLAM — the Working Group at the Open Knowledge Foundation dedicated to opening up cultural content and data from Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums around the world — is collecting examples of open collections on the site. If you know of ones we haven’t listed, get in touch via the public mailing list.

We were pleased to see representatives from the Getty at the launch of the US arm of the OpenGLAM Working Group back in March of this year and we hope that the experience of coming together with other institutions keen to see more of their colelctions shared online helped to bolster their support for open content.

On their website the Getty have also signalled that this is the first in a series of open content releases under their Open Content Program. Plans are in the works to release documentation from the Getty’s Conservation Institute’s field projects as well as their world famous vocabularies for describing cultural objects.

It’s fantastic to see an organisation of the Getty’s size and stature making such a move. We hope this will motivate other organisations to take such a bold and positive step towards an open cultural commons which everyone is free to enjoy and re-use. We would also urge the Getty to go further in their Open Content Program and actually start labelling the digital copies of their works available through their website with a Creative Commons Public Domain Mark to further reduced the barriers to re-use.

Announcing a new series, “Curator’s Choice”

Adam Green - July 3, 2013 in Featured, Open GLAM, Public Domain, Public Domain Review

This week sees the launch of the “Curator’s Choice” series – a joint endeavour of The Public Domain Review and OpenGLAM – which aims to actively engage with and celebrate those cultural heritage institutions that have taken the exciting steps to open up their content.

This new series shall consist of a monthly guest post from a gallery, library, archive or museum curator reflecting upon a group of works in one of their open digital collections – that is, public domain material which has had no restrictions placed on it as it’s been digitised and made available online. This new series aims to be a celebratory spotlight on both the institutions making the exciting steps of openly licensing their digital collections and also the curators that work everyday with such collections – as well, of course, as being a celebration of the content itself.

The series shall be housed on both The Public Domain Review and the OpenGLAM website.

The inaugural post is from the British Library’s Phil Hatfield and Andrew Gray who take a look at the fascinating array of photographs in the British Library’s Canadian Colonial Copyright Collection – see it here on The Public Domain Review and here on OpenGLAM.

Here’s a sneak preview of just a few of the gems from the collection.

‘The Wrestlers’, deposited in 1905 by R. H. Trueman [copyright number 15767]. We all hope the bear was trained… – Source

Part of a series of stereoscopic photographs telling the story of Mr. Turtledove’s fancy for the French cook. Deposited in 1906 by Arthur Lawrence Merrill [copyright number 17212] – Source

Part of a photographic series on performing animals, deposited by John A. Brown in 1920 – Source

Next month’s piece shall be from the Rijksmuseum. You can follow new additions to the series through this RSS feed.

The Public Domain Review is Saved!

Adam Green - May 2, 2013 in OKF Projects, Public Domain, Public Domain Review

At 12:00pm BST today, as midnight struck over the Pacific island of American Samoa and the 1st of May truly ended all over the world, so did end the inaugural Public Domain Review Fundraiser. In 58 days, with the help of 676 wonderful supporters we managed to leapfrog our target of $20,000 and raise an amazing $22,070, ca. £14200 / €16,800. Thank you all so much, we’ve been really blown away by your amazing generosity.

We saw donations come in from all over the world, and the Tote Bags have been sent out to homes far and wide across 6 of the 7 continents on the planet (still missing that ever elusive Antarctica). There weren’t just offers of monetary support – a few people also pledged their skills and time. We’ve had a very kind offer to build a PDR App for Android which is currently in progress, and also a printmaker interested in partnering up to do some prints for us using an old Victorian letterpress. There are also other interesting collaborations currently being discussed – all to be revealed soon!

We have lots of really exciting things lined up for the future, and thanks to all the incredible generosity we’ve seen we can them happen. Amongst others, we have coming soon a brand new monthly feature – “Guest Curator of the Month” – in which an invited curator shall do a guest post focusing on works in their institutions openly licensed digital collections: the British Library, Rijksmuseum and others are onboard already. In addition to improving the website with new features like these, part of the work we’ll also be doing is, of course, trying to secure additional funding which we’ll be very much focusing on over the next few months.

All in all, very exciting times ahead. And, again, a huge thank you to all who donated!

And in case you missed it, here’s the super-extended version of the fundraising film: aptly retitled “SAVED!” and with a new happy ending!

Just 5 days to go for The Public Domain Review Fundraiser!

Adam Green - April 25, 2013 in Featured, Public Domain, Public Domain Review

The Public Domain Review Fundraiser ends on Wednesday 1st May, just 5 days away!

Since we launched the fundraising campaign 7 weeks ago we’ve seen a fantastic response which has got us so far to an amazing 98% of our target… very very nearly there. We are making a final push in these remaining days to make these last few hundred dollars, and we hope maybe also make a substantial leap past our goal!

If you haven’t donated yet but you’d like to be part of the amazing drive we are seeing to keep the project alive, then wait no longer! The time has come.

To learn more about the campaign and make your donation visit:

http://publicdomainreview.org/support/

And remember that if you donate $40 or more you’ll have the opportunity to be receive our beautiful Public Domain Review Tote Bag!

Please also continue to spread the word as much as you can!

What We Hope the Digital Public Library of America Will Become

Jonathan Gray - April 17, 2013 in Bibliographic, Featured, Free Culture, Open Content, Open GLAM, Open Humanities, Policy, Public Domain

Tomorrow is the official launch date for the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

If you’ve been following it, you’ll know that it has the long term aim of realising “a large-scale digital public library that will make the cultural and scientific record available to all”.

More specifically, Robert Darnton, Director of the Harvard University Library and one of the DPLA’s leading advocates to date, recently wrote in the New York Review of Books, that the DPLA aims to:

make the holdings of America’s research libraries, archives, and museums available to all Americans—and eventually to everyone in the world—online and free of charge

What will this practically mean? How will the DPLA translate this broad mission into action? And to what extent will they be aligned with other initiatives to encourage cultural heritage institutions to open up their holdings, like our own OpenGLAM or Wikimedia’s GLAM-WIKI?

Here are a few of our thoughts on what we hope the DPLA will become.

A force for open metadata

The DPLA is initially focusing its efforts on making existing digital collections from across the US searchable and browsable from a single website.

Much like Europe’s digital library, Europeana, this will involve collecting information about works from a variety of institutions and linking to digital copies of these works that are spread across the web. A super-catalogue, if you will, that includes information about and links to copies of all the things in all the other catalogues.

Happily, we’ve already heard that the DPLA is releasing all of this data about cultural works that they will be collecting using the CC0 legal tool – meaning that anyone can use, share or build on this information without restriction.

We hope they continue to proactively encourage institutions to explicitly open up metadata about their works, and to release this as machine-readable raw data.

Back in 2007, we – along with the late Aaron Swartz – urged the Library of Congress to play a leading role in opening up information about cultural works. So we’re pleased that it looks like DPLA could take on the mantle.

But what about the digital copies themselves?

A force for an open digital public domain

The DPLA has spoken about using fair use provisions to increase access to copyrighted materials, and has even intimated that they might want to try to change or challenge the state of the law to grant further exceptions or limitations to copyright for educational or noncommercial purposes (trying to succeed where Google Books failed). All of this is highly laudable.

But what about works which have fallen out of copyright and entered the public domain?

Just as they are doing with metadata about works, we hope that the DPLA takes a principled approach to digital copies of works which have entered the public domain, encouraging institutions to publish these without legal or technical restrictions.

We hope they become proactive evangelists for a digital public domain which is open as in the Open Definition, meaning that digital copies of books, paintings, recordings, films and other artefacts are free for anyone to use and share – without restrictive clickwrap agreements, digital rights management technologies or digital watermarks to impose ownership and inhibit further use or sharing.

The Europeana Public Domain Charter, in part based on and inspired by the Public Domain Manifesto, might serve as a model here. In particular, the DPLA might take inspiration from the following sections:

What is in the Public Domain needs to remain in the Public Domain. Exclusive control over Public Domain works cannot be re-established by claiming exclusive rights in technical reproductions of the works, or by using technical and or contractual measures to limit access to technical reproductions of such works. Works that are in the Public Domain in analogue form continue to be in the Public Domain once they have been digitised.

The lawful user of a digital copy of a Public Domain work should be free to (re-) use, copy and modify the work. Public Domain status of a work guarantees the right to re-use, modify and make reproductions and this must not be limited through technical and or contractual measures. When a work has entered the Public Domain there is no longer a legal basis to impose restrictions on the use of that work.

The DPLA could create their own principles or recommendations for the digital publication of public domain works (perhaps recommending legal tools like the Creative Commons Public Domain Mark) as well as ensuring that new content that they digitise is explicitly marked as open.

Speaking at our OpenGLAM US launch last month, Emily Gore, the DPLA’s Director for Content, said that this is definitely something that they’d be thinking about over the coming months. We hope they adopt a strong and principled position in favour of openness, and help to raise awareness amongst institutions and the general public about the importance of a digital public domain which is open for everyone.

A force for collaboration around the cultural commons

Open knowledge isn’t just about stuff being able to freely move around on networks of computers and devices. It is also about people.

We think there is a significant opportunity to involve students, scholars, artists, developers, designers and the general public in the curation and re-presentation of our cultural and historical past.

Rather than just having vast pools of information about works from US collections – wouldn’t it be great if there were hand picked anthologies of works by Emerson or Dickinson curated by leading scholars? Or collections of songs or paintings relating to a specific region, chosen by knowledgable local historians who know about allusions and references that others might miss?

An ‘open by default’ approach would enable use and engagement with digital content that breathes a life into it that it might not otherwise have – from new useful and interesting websites, mobile applications or digital humanities projects, to creative remixing or screenings of out of copyright films with new live soundtracks (like Air’s magical reworking of Georges Méliès’s 1902 film Le Voyage Dans La Lune).

We hope that the DPLA takes a proactive approach to encouraging the use of the digital material that it federates, to ensure that it is as impactful and valuable to as many people as possible.

Open and the “Next Great Copyright Act”

Mike Linksvayer - March 20, 2013 in Legal, Open Content, Public Domain


Director of the U.S. Copyright Office Maria Pallante is expected to call today for updates to U.S. copyright law. Her brief
written testimony is already
available

and a longer speech given two weeks
ago

(titled “The Next Great Copyright Act”) provides additional flavor.

Substantial changes to copyright will take years to play out in the
U.S., and similarly around the world. If Open is to impact how
copyright and other knowledge regulation plays out over the next
years, we must assert how and why, and develop our strategies for
making it so. Statements like Pallante’s
provide not-to-be-missed opportunities to contextualize and explain
the importance of Open to the world.

While Pallante’s calls are at best a mixed bag, two items offer
glimmers of hope and are useful for illustrating both the value and
strategy of Open:

Congress also may need to apply fresh eyes to the next great copyright act to ensure that the copyright law remains relevant and functional. This may require some bold adjustments to the general framework. You may want to consider alleviating some of the pressure and gridlock brought about by the long copyright term — for example, by reverting works to the public domain after a period of life plus fifty years unless heirs or successors register their interests with the Copyright Office.

50 years with an option for more is far from anything that might be
considered optimal — OKF’s Rufus Pollock has estimated 15
years
and others
less, even before
accounting for values achieved through openness such as freedom and
equality — and is a dangerous place to start new debate, considering
that Disney lobbyists have not yet weighed in.

But any possibility of mitigating the heretofore relentless march of
copyright term extension and by implication appreciation of the value
of the public domain is welcome, and an opportunity.

Some of the most compelling work by the Open community involves making
public domain works accessible, and celebrating our
bounty
. Compelling for culture — and
critical for policy. What better way to make the case for expanding
and protecting the public domain than to demonstrate and increase the
value of works that are free of copyright restriction even now? Well,
we have to talk about our work in those terms, loudly!
Public Domain Review postcards

Pallante:

And in compelling circumstances, you may wish to reverse the general principle of copyright law that copyright owners should grant prior approval for the reproduction and dissemination of their works — for example, by requiring copyright owners to object or “opt out” in order to prevent certain uses, whether paid or unpaid, by educational institutions or libraries.

Openly licensed works — those that all are free to use, reuse, and
redistribute subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute
and/or share-alike
— unambiguously permit
such uses, right now, and are increasingly becoming expected and even
mandated where public funding is provided or public benefit is a
primary goal. What better way to make the case for liberal policy
where public funding or benefit is at stake than to promote and
demonstrate the value of Open works now? Again, we have to talk about
our usual pro-openness work’s relevance to policy, loudly!

But open licensing is opt-in (even when mandated, it is as if a group
opted-in, still leaving default policy for everyone else), ultimately
limiting its impact. We shouldn’t shy away from that reality — indeed
it is a key reason open licensing can be, if we make it so, a
harbinger of better default policy, but not at all a substitute for
better default policy.

When positioning Open in the context of broader copyright and other
information regulation debates, we shouldn’t be content to merely
address points made in those debates, but from an Open perspective.
We must also raise additional issues that arise from the experience of
Open movements: a knowledge commons requires protection and promotion.

Private enclosure of public domain and Open works, eg through
“copyfraud”, might be addressed through policy. Ensuring the public’s
right to audit, understand, replicate, and modify data and tools such
as software and designs for research and hardware, might be addressed
through policy. Actually we know these can be addressed through
policy, as demonstrated for decades on an opt-in basis through
copyleft, one of the signal innovations of our movements.

Although over 25 years old (starting with free software), open
licenses and the amazing projects that use them (that run the
Internet, and are making governments more transparent, bit by bit, and
so much more) have played almost no explicit role in debates about
default copyright policy. Hopefully you’re beginning to think that we
can change that — with little or no alteration of our existing Open
activities, as we mainly need to appreciate just how provocative and
potent those are, and tell the public, especially the policy world.

Ultimately, we can shift the centrality of “copyright policy” to that
of “open policy” — what information regulation is best for the
knowledge commons — for all humanity’s yearning for freedom,
equality, and well governed institutions.

Version Variation Visualisation

Tom Cheesman - February 8, 2013 in Featured Project, Open Content, Public Domain, WG Linguistics

In 2010, I had a long paper about the history of German translations of Othello rejected by a prestigious journal. The reviewer wrote: “The Shakespeare Industry doesn’t need more information about world Shakespeare. We need navigational aids.”

About the same time, David Berry turned me on to Digital Humanities. I got a team together (credits) and we’ve built some cool new tools.

All culturally important works are translated over and over again. The differences are interesting. Different versions of Othello reflect changing, contested ideas about race, gender and sexuality, political power, and so on, over the
centuries, right up to the present day. Hence any one translation is just one snapshot from its local place and moment in time, just one
interpretation, and what’s interesting and productive is the variation, the diversity.

But with print culture tools, you need a superhuman memory, a huge desk and ideally several assistants, to leaf backwards and forwards in all the copies, so you can compare and contrast. And when you present your findings, the minutiae of differences can be boring, and your findings can’t be verified. How do you know I haven’t just picked quotations that support my argument?

But with digital tools, multiple translations become material people can easily work and play with, research and create with, and we can begin to use them in totally new ways.

Recent work

vvv screenshot2
We’ve had funding from UK research councils and Swansea University to digitize 37 German versions of Othello (1766-2010) and build these prototype tools. There you can try out our purpose-built database and tools for freely segmenting and aligning multiple versions; our timemap of versions; our parallel text navigation tool which uses aligned segment attributes for navigation; and most innovative of all: the tool we call ‘Eddy and Viv’. This lets you compare all the different translations of any
segment (with help from machine translation), and it also lets you read the whole translated text in a new way, though the variety of translations. You don’t need to know the translating language.

This is a radical new idea (more details on our platform). Eddy and Viv are algorithms: Eddy calculates how much each translation of each segment differs in wording from others, then Viv maps the variation in the results of that analysis back onto the translated text segments.

This means you can now read Shakespeare in English, while seeing how much all the translators disagree about how to interpret each speech or line, or even each word. It’s a new way of reading a literary work through translators’ collective eyes, identifying hotspots of
variation. And you don’t have to be a linguist.

Future plans and possible application to collections of public domain texts


I am a linguist, so I’m interested in finding new ways to overcome language barriers, but equally I’m interested in getting people interested in learning languages. Eddy and Viv have that double effect. So these are not just research tools: we want to make a cultural difference.

We’re applying for further funding. We envisage an open library of versions of all sorts of works, and a toolsuite supporting experimental and collaborative approaches to understanding the differences, using visualizations for navigation, exploration and
comparison, and creating presentations for research and education.

The tools will work with any languages, any kinds of text. The scope is vast, from fairy tales to philosophical classics. You can also investigate versions in just one language – say, different editions of an encyclopedia, or different versions of a song lyric. It should be possible to push the approach beyond text, to audio and video, too.

Shakespeare is a good starting point, because the translations are so numerous, increasing all the time, and the differences are so intriguing. But a few people have started testing our tools on other materials, such as Jan Rybicki with
Polish translations of Joseph Conrad’s work. If we can demonstrate the value, and simplify
the tasks involved, people will start on other ‘great works’ – Aristotle, Buddhist scripture,
Confucius, Dante (as in Caroline Bergvall’s amazing sound work ‘Via’), Dostoyevski,
Dumas…

Many translations of transculturally important works are in the public domain. Most are
not, yet. So copyright is a key issue for us. We hope that as the project grows,
more copyright owners will be willing to grant more access. And of course
we support reducing copyright restrictions.

Tim Hutchings, who works on digital scriptures, asked me recently: “Would it be possible
to create a platform that allowed non-linguist readers to appreciate the differences in tone
and meaning between versions in different languages? … without needing to be fluent in
all of those languages.” – Why not, with imaginative combinations of various digital tools
for machine translation, linguistic analysis, sentiment analysis, visualization and not least:
connecting people.

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