[ok-scotland] Open Licensing at the National Library of Scotland

Crockford, Ally a.crockford at nls.uk
Mon Nov 10 15:59:10 UTC 2014

Although Fred's e-mail earlier addresses them better than I can, as someone who has been involved in the conversations regarding licensing of digitised public domain content, I wanted to weigh in on Laurel's comments and, to some extent, Claudia's (apologies for length)...

This issue is one that faces pretty much all Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums right now, particularly those in the UK where there has currently not been a decisive legal case regarding the application of 'sweat of your brow' copyright. As Fred mentioned, in the US there has been such a decision, and therefore in the US public domain content that is digitised is automatically placed back into the public domain, as well it should be.

To repeat Fred again, cultural organisations can and will license digitised public domain content separate from the PD original, often under some variation of a CC license. Of course, for many of the reasons that Laurel mentioned, this is a situation that is not being accepted with complacency by members of the public - particularly those involved in the OK movement - NOR, I have to point out, by many members of staff at the organisations themselves. Hopefully in time (and many people have suggested that it's inevitable) we will see ourselves in a legal situation like that in the US.

For the time being, many OK advocates both internally (like myself) and externally have been working to get cultural organisations to release their content back into the public domain in some format, whether that be acknowledging their PD status or applying a CC-0 license. I do use wording like 'releasing content' because, as much as I believe myself that any digitised version of PD content IS in the public domain, the legal reality in the UK is that there is currently nothing prohibiting organisations from licensing digitised PD content under different licenses, so the wording is - unfortunately - accurate.

I applaud the NLS for their more open policy and the on-going discussions regarding its implementation, as I have applauded other organisations who have made similar developments. However, I also acknowledge that this is not an acceptable solution in and of itself, and therefore I refuse to let it drop here, and I'd encourage everyone else to do the same.

PS -  re: Claudia's anecdote, that fellow could conceivably license his digitised copy of the PD original as he saw fit - there's nothing legally prohibiting him from doing that - but the original object would remain in the PD, meaning, as I understand it, that nothing would prevent someone else from digitising it themselves and releasing it under a PD license. Yet another reason why most cultural organisations need to re-address their perspective with respect to licensing...

Ally Crockford
National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge
Edinburgh EH1 1EW
Scotland, UK

e: a.crockford at nls.uk<mailto:a.crockford at nls.uk>
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w: http://www.nls.uk<http://www.nls.uk/>

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