Friday, December 16, 2016

British Library and Copyright

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The following caught my interest from the BL blog:

“Readers may be surprised to learn that most medieval manuscripts held at the British Library are still in copyright until 2039 under the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (as amended). However for unpublished material created many centuries ago and in the public domain in most other countries, the British Library believes making available digital copies of this material to be very unlikely to raise any objections. As an institution whose role it is to support access to knowledge, we have therefore taken the decision to release certain digitised images technically still in copyright in the UK under the Public Domain Mark on our Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts website.”

I like their self-understanding as ‘an institution whose role it is to support access to knowledge’. Wouldn't it be great if all scholars thought about themselves in similar terms ...

21 comments :

  1. Wow. That will never fly under US Copyright laws.

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  2. Given the extent to which many scholars are committed to open access, the final snide and sweeping comment undermined the eagerness I had to share this post until I reached that point. :-(

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  3. I'll agree with you that "many" scholars are so committed, but I'd bet you'd agree with me that "many" also are not, and thus I'm sure we would both agree that "more" should be, which is - excuse me speaking for Dirk - likely what he meant to say: "if only *more* scholars thought of themselves in similar terms"

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    1. Yes, obviously if he had made any distinction and not simply lumped all scholars together in a way that is simply false, I would not have left the comment that I did, and would have agreed with the sentiment.

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    2. I'm not sure what you mean.

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    3. my point James was that this was obviously a case where you could and should have given a sympathetic reading, yet you did not.

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    4. Well, it seemed to me precisely the kind of case where it was appropriate to treat sympathetically those faculty who work hard to promote open access scholarship in general, and to make sure that their own work is available freely whenever possible. And so it seems odd that you would defend unsympathetic language by saying that it should have been received sympathetically. The language used clearly conveys to a native English speaker such as myself that the message is not "faculty should do this more than we do," but "faculty (except for a few rogue individuals like myself) don't do this, and shame on you." The kind of language used doesn't encourage the reader to hear it sympathetically, especially if they are in the category that is being denigrated.

      We who are faculty can do better, and need to do better, not just in making our work available, but in pursuing lower cost open access venues and not the kind that come with an exorbitant price tag for the individual or their institution. But it is not as though this process has not begun. Here are some statistics I came across: http://oad.simmons.edu/oadwiki/OA_by_the_numbers

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    5. "And so it seems odd that you would defend unsympathetic language by saying that it should have been received sympathetically. "

      I still think you're starting from an incorrect premise: it's only "unsympathetic language" if you haven't given it a sympathetic reading.

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    6. I think you are inverting things. I could certainly find a positive spin to what was said. But it is not an unsympathetic reading to take it at fact value, as treating most if not all academics uncharitably. If something requires a special sympathetic reading in order to be understood positively, then it was arguably uncharitable to begin with. And as I said, I considered this really unfortunate, precisely because I found everything before the final sweeping insult/stereotyping to be worth sharing. But I could not in good conscience share something that I thought would do more harm to the cause of disseminating scholarship freely and effectively by insulting those whose role in the process is arguably definitive.

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    7. Well James,

      the author of the text has already clarified that he intended it to be taken in the sympathetic sense.

      He has also presented specific textual cues which he argues makes the sympathetic sense the most natural meaning.

      Then we have me, an independent third-party reader, vouching that I did in fact naturally read it in the sympathetic sense.

      So it appears that the communication process of transmission -text- reception went off between the author and myself without a hitch.

      And yet you continue to insist that the negative, unsympathetic sense is the more natural reading.

      I guess I'm just confused as to what grounds you think you have for that contention.

      Given that the author says he meant it one way, and the other readers seem to have received it that way, and (so far at least) you are the only one seeing this negative interpretation, what makes you so sure that you're not the one incorrectly reading a negativity into the text?

      I think we have enough negativity around already without reading more into the world when it's not required.

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    8. Ryan and James, I have edited the post to a version we can all live with. Feel free to delete any moot comments.

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  4. To change the tone slightly, the fact that British copyright is so strict that (did I read that right?) some medieval manuscripts fall under copyright?! That is just, well, silly!

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  5. Since I am obviously in a grumpy mood (lack of sunlight; nothing personal, James) let me continue with European/continental copyright:
    "As I understand them, every commercial website has to check that another website doesn’t infringe any copyright before linking to it. Linking to a website that violates someone’s copyright without proving that you took appropriate action to check for possible copyright infringements, is a copyright infringement itself (http://www.thoughts-on-java.org/end-java-weekly-now)." If all this is true, dare I a say the unsayable and suggests that there may be positives coming with Brexit?

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  6. Slightly off-topic but always relevant to the poverty-stricken textual & manuscripts scholars, I find it outrageous how much institutions such as (or, I should say, especially) the BL charge for their images—images which have already been produced—for both research and publication purposes. Lest this be just my personal rant (and it is pretty personal as it affects some of my work at several fronts), let me quote from the preface of one well-known palaeography book:

    "We gratefully acknowledge a grant from the British Academy, which has enabled us to pay the exorbitant fees which some large institutions in the UK, notably the British Library in London, the Bodleian Library in Oxford and the John Rylands University Library in Manchester, now charge for their photographs, and their even higher fees for permission to publish them. Without the Academy's support, this book could not have been published" (G. Cavallo and H. Maehler, Hellenistic Bookhands [Berlin/New York: De Gruyter, 2008]).

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    1. And of course the irony of the Cavallo/Maehler statement lies in their highly-overpriced volume (159,95€/$224.00/£119.99), typical of those regularly published by DeGruyter (as well as certain other well-known academic publishers).

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    3. Point taken. But, actually, De Gryuter and other such publishers offer far more expensive books many of which are IMHO of far lesser value, so it’s not too bad. Yes, it is expensive, but in this case I wouldn’t say overpriced. (Just look at how much one TuT volume costs; this one at least has pictures—which the authors had to pay for.) What I was getting at, though, was the fact that it’s the researcher who takes all the crap—whether it’s from holding institutions who charge outrageous fees for images or from publishers who won’t even cover the copy-editing and whose books the authors themselves often can’t afford.

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  7. "...to certain poor shepherds..."--certain as adjective or verb?

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