Rufus Pollock on Open Data and Licensing

In "Open Data Openness and Licensing," Rufus Pollock, a Cambridge University economist, tackles the question of whether open research data should be licensed.

Here's an excerpt:

Over the last couple of years there has been substantial discussion about the licensing (or not) of (open) data and what "open" should mean. In this debate there two distinct, but related, strands:

  1. Some people have argued that licensing is inappropriate (or unnecessary) for data.
  2. Disagreement about what "open" should mean. Specifically: does openness allow for attribution and share-alike "requirements" or should "open" data mean "public domain" data?

These points are related because arguments for the inappropriateness of licensing data usually go along the lines: data equates to facts over which no monopoly IP rights can or should be granted; as such all data is automatically in the public domain and hence there is nothing to license (and worse "licensing" amounts to an attempt to "enclose" the public domain).

However, even those who think that open data can/should only be public domain data still agree that it is reasonable and/or necessary to have some set of community "rules" or "norms" governing usage of data. Therefore, the question of what requirements should be allowed for "open" data is a common one, whatever one"s stance on the PD question.

ARL Releases "Establish a Universal, Open Library or Digital Data Commons"

The Association of Research Libraries has released "Establish a Universal, Open Library or Digital Data Commons."

Here's an excerpt:

Deepening our understanding of our Nation and its culture and history, advancing scientific discovery, tackling environmental, economic issues and more, all depend on scientists, researchers, students, scholars, and members of the public accessing our Nation's cultural, historical and scientific assets. A large-scale initiative to digitize and preserve the public domain collections of library, governmental, and cultural memory organizations will support research, teaching and learning at all levels, will help stem the current economic crisis by equipping and employing workers in every state with 21st Century skills, and it will lay a foundation for innovation and national competitiveness in the decades ahead. The goal is to establish a universal, open library or a digital data commons.

New from Boyle: The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind

Noted intellectual property expert James Boyle has published a new book, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind.

It is under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike License, and the PDF can be freely downloaded. It is available in print form from the Yale University Press.

Here's an excerpt from the book's home page:

Our music, our culture, our science, and our economic welfare all depend on a delicate balance between those ideas that are controlled and those that are free, between intellectual property and the public domain. In The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind (Yale University Press) James Boyle introduces readers to the idea of the public domain and describes how it is being tragically eroded by our current copyright, patent, and trademark laws. In a series of fascinating case studies, Boyle explains why gene sequences, basic business ideas and pairs of musical notes are now owned, why jazz might be illegal if it were invented today, why most of 20th century culture is legally unavailable to us, and why today’s policies would probably have smothered the World Wide Web at its inception. . . .

With a clear analysis of issues ranging from Thomas Jefferson’s philosophy of innovation to musical sampling, from Internet file sharing and genetic engineering to patented peanut butter sandwiches, this articulate and charming book brings a positive new perspective to important cultural and legal debates, including what Boyle calls the "range wars of the information age": today’s heated battles over intellectual property. Intellectual property rights have been viewed as geeky, technical and inaccessible. Boyle shows that, as a culture, we can no longer afford the luxury of this kind of willed ignorance.

PALINET to Digitize 20 Million Textual Pages

With support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, PALINET's Mass Digitization Collaborative plans to digitize 20 million textual pages of public domain material from participating member libraries. The scanned digital texts will be freely available from the Internet Archive.

Read more about at "PALINET's Mass Digitization Collaborative Underway."

Intellectual Property? OK, Let's Tax It as Property

Scientist Dallas Weaver has suggested that if copyright holders want "property" rights then they should be subject to a significant fixed annual tax in order to continue to hold the copyright. This tax would encourage copyright holders to put their works in the public domain.

Read more about it at "Copyright This."

TRLN (Triangle Research Libraries Network) Members Join the Open Content Alliance

TRLN (Triangle Research Libraries Network) has announced that its member libraries (Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) have joined the Open Content Alliance.

Here's an excerpt from "TRLN Member Libraries Join Open Content Alliance":

In the first year, UNC Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University will each convert 2,700 public domain books into high-resolution, downloadable, reusable digital files that can be indexed locally and by any web search engine. UNC Chapel Hill and NCSU will start by each hosting one state-of-the-art Scribe machine provided by the Internet Archive to scan the materials at a cost of just 10 cents per page. Each university library will focus on historic collection strengths, such as plant and animal sciences, engineering and physical science at NCSU and social sciences and humanities at UNC-Chapel Hill. Duke University will also contribute select content for digitization during the first year of the collaborative project.

Commons-Research Mailing List Launched

Giorgos Cheliotis has launched the Commons-Research mailing list.

Here's an excerpt from the list's home page that describes it:

Discussion among researchers studying the commons, for example the use and impact of peer production methods and communities and open licensing. We welcome researchers studying the commons in a wide range of disciplines, including anthropology, economics, law, media studies, sociology. . .

Columbia University and Microsoft Book Digitization Project

The Columbia University Libraries have announced that they will work with Microsoft to digitize a "large number of books" that are in the public domain.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

Columbia University and Microsoft Corp. are collaborating on an initiative to digitize a large number of books from Columbia University Libraries and make them available to Internet users. With the support of the Open Content Alliance (OCA), publicly available print materials in Columbia Libraries will be scanned, digitized, and indexed to make them readily accessible through Live Search Books. . . .

Columbia University Libraries is playing a key role in book selection and in setting quality standards for the digitized materials. Microsoft will digitize selected portions of the Libraries’ great collections of American history, literature, and humanities works, with the specific areas to be decided mutually by Microsoft and Columbia during the early phase of the project.

Microsoft will give the Library high-quality digital images of all the materials, allowing the Library to provide worldwide access through its own digital library and to share the content with non-commercial academic initiatives and non-profit organizations.

Read more about it at "Columbia University Joins Microsoft Scan Plan."

PublicDomainReprints.org Turns Digital Public Domain Books into Printed Books

PublicDomainReprints.org is offering an experimental service that allows users to convert about 1.7 million digital public domain books in the Internet Archive, Google Book Search, or the Universal Digital Library into printed books using the Lulu print-on-demand service.

Source: "Converting Google Book PDFs to Actual Books."

Canadian Public Domain Music Score Site Forced to Remove All Scores

The International Music Score Library Project, which offered music scores that were in the public domain in Canada, has been forced to remove all scores because it can not afford to comply with the terms of a second cease and desist letter from Universal Edition. The publisher's letter indicated that some scores were still under copyright in Europe, where the term of protection is 20 years longer than in Canada, and that some unidentified works were still under Canadian copyright.

The IMSLP Website remains, but it now consists only of a lengthy open letter and discussion forums.

Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, commented in a posting on the case:

In this particular case, UE demanded that the site use IP addresses to filter out non-Canadian users, arguing that failing to do so infringes both European and Canadian copyright law. It is hard to see how this is true given that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that sites such as IMSLP are entitled to presume that they are being used in a lawful manner and therefore would not rise to the level of authorizing infringement. The site was operating lawfully in Canada and there is no positive obligation in the law to block out non-Canadians.

As for a European infringement, if UE is correct, then the public domain becomes an offline concept, since posting works online would immediately result in the longest single copyright term applying on a global basis. That can't possibly be right. Canada has chosen a copyright term that complies with its international obligations and attempts to import longer terms – as is the case here – should not only be rejected but treated as copyright misuse.

Read more about it in "European Copyright Law Used to Threaten Canadian Public Domain Site" and "Music Score Library Goes Off-Line after Cease and Desist Warning."

Public Domain Works Partners with the Open Library

Public Domain Works has announced that it will partner with the Open Library, sharing its data about works that are in public domain. Public Domain Works supports the Public Domain Works DB, which is now in beta form.

Here's an excerpt from the announcement:

The plan looks to be to upload the Public Domain Works data to the Open Library, and to use read/write APIs to continue to develop different front-ends for different jurisdictions—each with its own algorithms to determine which works are in the public domain.