As posted about previously, last Friday I was in Edinburgh to attend the AHRB/British Academy Conference on Copyright and Research in the Humanities and the Social Sciences. I took part in the ‘Copyright Users’ panel and my presentation (in plain html), entitled The Need for More Openness, is now online.

The event produced some really excellent discussion and was made all the better by taking place in the Playfair Library (a vast and beautifully decorated Georgian hall which used to house the University Library). After John Kay’s introduction we moved on after lunch to the ‘Copyright Owners’.

In this session, Bernard Horrocks of the National Portrait Gallery, explained how you could get a high resolution digital reproduction of one of their pictures for just 18 pounds — with these kind of stiff fees the result of the ever-increasing pressures on museums and galleries to make money wherever they can. Carol Tullo, the Queen’s Printer in Scotland, gave an interesting presentation on the efforts being made to facilitate greater reuse of public sector information. George Rosie talked about the difficulties of making a living as an artists (and the frequent appropriation of his ideas for TV programs) and Kevin Taylor discussed the CUP’s relationship with its academic authors.

But I was most struck by the points made by Professor Geoffrey Boulton in his summing up of the ‘Copyright Owners’ panel in which he voiced strong support for moves to open up information — as an anecdote he narrated how his own research group (which works on Climate Change) had ended up mainly collaborating with academics from the US in large part because it was so easy to get access to US geodata.

Lastly came the ‘Copyright Users’ — though most of us were, as we pointed out, were also ‘Copyright Producers’. Professor Simon Frith narrated some wonderful stories of just how difficult it could be to be a musicologist working on modern popular music in an era of aggressive copyright assertion. Andres Guadamuz gave a short introduction to Creative Commons, I talked about what I thought the real problems with Copyright were in the realm of Research and Dr Michael Jubb closed up with a comprehensive and balanced account of the opportunities and problems in transporting more open approaches to research (in particular open access) into the humanities and social sciences.

Website | + posts

Rufus Pollock is Founder and President of Open Knowledge.