Communia comments on Library of Congress Third Party Digitization Initiatives


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Last week the Communia Association submitted comments (PDF) to the United States Library of Congress’ Request for Information on the topic of Third Party Digitization Initiatives.

To give a little bit of context, the Library of Congress is looking for contractors to digitize some of their collections, primarily public domain content. In exchange for digitizers scanning materials at zero cost to the Library, the contractors “may market and resell, for a limited period, access to the digitized collection to cover the costs of digitization.” Contractors must provide the Library with a digital copy of the materials, and they must “make materials widely available.” The Library agrees to not make the digitized materials available online for a certain period of time (this embargo will be no more than 3 years) so that the Contractor can recoup the scanning costs. The Contractor must meet certain quality parameters and provide some metadata to the Library. Finally, the Contractor “shall not claim copyright in the digitized copies of the original Library materials…[but] may assert copyright in independent, creative elements that it may add to the original materials.”

Communia applauds the Library of Congress for taking the initiative to increase public access to its collection. In its comments, Communia urged the Library to push for broad, unencumbered public access to its digitized materials as soon as possible.

We offer a few suggestions for strengthening the Library’s Request for Proposals (RFP). A few of these suggestions are outlined below:

  • The Public Domain Manifesto says that digital reproductions of works in the public domain must also belong to the public domain. And since the Contractors may not claim copyright in the digitized copies, it would be beneficial for these copies to be marked as being in the public domain using a tool such as the Creative Commons Public Domain Mark.
  • The Library should consider bids from Contractors that entertain a wide variety of access models. For example, some digitizers might be in the position to offer immediate, free ad-supported access (instead of selling access on demand).
  • In general, the Library should prioritize bids that provide free public access sooner than those that have longer embargo periods.
  • The Library should consider involving volunteers and other community organizations willing to assist in the digitization and quality control work. For example, Wikimedia France partnered with the Bibliothèque nationale de France to process high definition files of public domain texts.
  • The Library requires the vendor to provide a set of core metadata. The Library should be authorized to release this metadata into the public domain using the CC0 Public Domain Dedication, thus aligning with an open metadata model used by several large libraries around the world, including The British Library, Harvard Library, and soon to be used by Europeana.
  • The Library should develop a strategic access plan and secure the necessary funding so that the materials can be properly archived and made publicly available without delay once the period of exclusivity has come to an end.
  • In future RFPs, the Library should consider how to leverage the expertise and capacity of digitizers to scan not only these small, interesting, and impactful collections, but also the vast (yet less visible) trove of public domain materials that comprise the bulk of the Library’s collection.
You can view the full comments of Communia here (PDF).

 

‘Orphan works’ compromise fails to deliver

The compromise text of the proposed orphan works directive is finally out. If nothing unexpected happens, this text should be what gets adopted later this year, what needs to be transposed into national legislation within 2 years from then, and what cultural heritage institutions that are confronted with hostage works need to deal with for the next decade or two. This text also represents the first finished legislative project that is part of the European Commissions Digital Agenda, which attempts to make Europe ‘fit for the digital age’.

Given all of the above, it is unfortunate that the text also is a legislative train wreck that fails to make any substantial improvements to the situation in which memory institutions engaged in digitization efforts find themselves. The compromise text of the proposed directive (‘compromise’ refers to a compromise between the three EU legislative bodies the Commission, the Council and the Parliament, not a compromise between the many stakeholders affected by this legislation) has essentially abandoned the initial purpose of the proposed directive. That purpose was to ensure that the public gains access to those works that are held hostage by the copyright legislation that has failed to keep up with social and technological change. Instead, the proposed directive has morphed into a twisted attempt to protect the ideology underpinning 20th century copyright legislation against the effects of the problems created by the rigidity of this very ideology. Continue reading

Commission recommendation on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation

On the 28th of October the European Commission has adopted a recommendation on digitisation and digital preservation. This recommendation is following up on a similar recommendation from 2006. At the core of the recommendation is the request to the member states to step up their digitization efforts, pool their resources and involve private actors in digitising cultural material. All of this is related to ensure the expansion of Europeana, the Europeana Commission supported digital heritage portal for Europe.

Given that copyright remains the number one obstacle to getting cultural heritage collections online it is no surprise that this recommendation deals with copyright questions as well. In this context it is good to see that the Commission is making it clear that digital reproductions of public domain works must remain in the public domain:

…in order to allow wide access to and use of public domain content, it is necessary to ensure that public domain content remains in the public domain once digitised. The use of intrusive watermarks or other visual protection measures on copies of public domain material as a sign of ownership or provenance should be avoided. (recital 13, page 3)

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