Training on digital copyright and access for the heritage industry


We had such great interest from our iHeritage seminar attendees on a digital copyright course, that we’ve decided to hold an intensive full-day course in Joburg, Durban and Cape Town. The course is aimed at: “Information professionals working in museums, archives, libraries; web developers, designers and creators working in the heritage sector, historians interested in online community-building, educators and curriculum developers who self-publish, funders who fund the heritage sector, as well as anyone interested in the impact of the Internet on peoples’ access to heritage, and how to use digital copyright tools to their advantage.”

Provisional dates are: Durban Friday, 3 April, Johannesburg Friday, 8 May, Cape Town Friday, 15 May and the course costs R1,500

Let me know if you’re interested in attending!

Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of their Own

I just received a copy of David Bollier’s new book which goes out for sale today. I had the pleasure of meeting David on a few occasions where he asked all the right questions about the commons movement around the world. In the future, we’ll talk to our kids about this time, so it’s great to see the book as ‘the first comprehensive history of the attempt by a global brigade of techies, lawyers, artists, musicians, scientists, business people, innovators, and geeks of all stripes to create a digital republic committed to freedom, transparency, participation and innovation.’

You can buy a copy on Amazon or New Press. The inside cover of the book says that you can download a free, CC-licensed copy from or but I can’t find the download link. Have asked David but if anyone finds it, please let me know 🙂

UPDATE: download the book for free at (thanks, Paul!)

Zoopy integrates Creative Commons

I can’t believe I missed this. A year ago, Zoopy announced Creative Commons integration enabling users to retain copyright and choose their own licenses and sharing conditions. Very cool.  (Belated) congrats, Jason and the team 🙂 One suggestion, though: doesn’t look like there’s any explanation of CC in the drop-down menus or the terms. Probably a good idea to hyperlink the licenses to the code on like they do on Flickr.

“No known copyright restrictions”? Not really

this htis
Pic: 'Untitled' by 'Unidentified photographer' but (still) copyrighted 'Smithsonian Institute'

I’m doing some research on what museums and cultural heritage institutions are doing to put their collections online and make them more accessible. A wonderful resource is Flickr Commons (wish we’d had it for our Heritage Day project!) with the goals of  1) increas(ing) access to publicly-held photography collections, and 2) providing a way for the general public to contribute information and knowledge.

Participating institutions have to make a public statement that there are “no known copyright restrictions” – in cases such as:

  1. The copyright is in the public domain because it has expired;
  2. The copyright was injected into the public domain for other reasons, such as failure to adhere to required formalities or conditions;
  3. The institution owns the copyright but is not interested in exercising control; or
  4. The institution has legal rights sufficient to authorize others to use the work without restrictions.

But the Smithsonian Institute’s Rights Statement is confusing. Instead of there being ‘unrestricted access’ and ‘no interest in controlling usage’, their statement indicates that they do, in fact, wish to exercise control, that there are, in fact, certain restrictions, and that your rights are limited to those that you already have according to fair use law in the United States (that’s according to the statement, but the FAQ adds to the confusion). Below are some exerpts from the notice:

‘Text and image files, audio and video clips, and other content on this website is the property of the Smithsonian Institution’

‘Fair use is permitted’ (so kind). They do specify what (they believe) constitutes fair use, but leave out online publication (putting it in the FAQ at the end of the page instead).

And then, most interesting:

‘Anyone wishing to use any of these files or images for commercial use, publication, or any purpose other than fair use as defined by law, must request and receive prior written permission from the Smithsonian Institution. Permission for such use is granted on a case-by-case basis at the sole discretion of Smithsonian’s Office of Product Development and Licensing. A usage fee may be assessed depending on the type and nature of the proposed use.’

So if you’re a community organisation wanting to build your own collections to spread access even further, this particular ‘commons’ is out of reach.

Don’t get me wrong – I think this is still a great initiative. But it really makes me realise how important it is to expose institutions who claim all the glory, when they are not quite there yet. For me, a real digital commons is one that fully enables downstream re-use and re-publishing. For the Smithsonian images, at least, Flickr Commons enables us to look but to definitely not to touch.

What is the ‘open web’?

‘We are helping make the Internet a place…
where you and your neighbors build the world you want.
that generates not only economic value, but also civic and social value.
that is optimized for multiple languages and locales.
that is trustworthy and has minimal risk for users.’
(Mozilla Foundation site)

Two weeks ago, Mark Surman from the Mozilla Foundation wrote to friends asking how they would explain the ‘open web’ if they had ‘a few inches on CNN or BBC’. Two days ago, he summarised the responses, saying that mostly he ‘got blank stares, which may mean I asked the question the wrong way. Or that it’s too abstract. Or just that people are busy.’

I felt the same way when I asked participants of the last iSummit to build ‘checklists on openness’ that would explain for people outside the movement exactly what constituted an ‘open web’ in their field/community and what practical steps they could take to practice openness in their own work.

Initially, people thought it was a great idea. But when we got down to business, I, too, got a lot of blank stares – thinking, too, that I’d framed the task in the wrong way, or that it was just a bad idea.

But reading Mark’s question, I can’t help but thinking that this is *not* ‘too abstract’ and that the blank stares have a lot to do with the fact that we do too much talking about licenses and products but not enough explaining and talking about what the philosophy means to ordinary people. We have some great organisations like Creative Commons and the Free Software Foundation and the Mozilla Foundation and Wikipedia that individually represent a lot about what the open web is about, but the branding of these orgs has meant that we often equate them as the epitome of openness, when, in fact, openness is much more complex, and reliant on an entire ecosystem of organisations, communities and individuals.

I think that the fact that we aren’t coming closer to working out what the ‘open web’ means is a result of this complexity and this complexity is based more on the need for many communities to work together to build these understandings rather than the fact that it is too difficult to quantify.

Right now, the open web is about the ‘cool factor’ which, although an important part of any movement building, leads us to focus on very small parts of the open web (i.e. licenses, copyright) rather than making us focus on the whole (i.e. transparency, community, collaboration).

I love the phrase in the Mozilla Foundation’s opening lines: ‘where you and your neighbors build the world you want.’ because I think that the most critical thing about the open web is that the concept/definition/explanation should be localised according to different contexts. In the same way that Wikipedia has different communities (language communities in this case) deciding (and changing their decisions about) what World War II is about, an explanation of the open web should accommodate different local, dynamic understandings of the concept.

This doesn’t mean that we will never get to a point where we can give an explanation about the open web on CNN or the BBC. It only means that we need to move to this question in a way that says upfront that, although we can have a global brand for the open web, that these explanations will always be local and dynamic, and should always invite people to question the current conceptualisation of the open web, rather than to just accept it.

Having said all that, if I had an inch on CNN or BBC to talk about the ‘open web’, this is what I would say (based on the mapping that I’ve started here):

‘Think of a place where you and your neighbors decide what the rules are and that the only rule is that there has to be a really good reason to keep people out;
Where you’re greeted with a big welcome mat that says ‘Please come in and play’ rather than ‘Keep out until you’re invited’;
Where you can prove yourself by doing and making things and showing them to the world, rather than waiting in a line to be chosen;
Where you can talk and build with people around the world who see your difference as an asset rather than a liability;
Where the default is to share, rather than to keep hold to yourself;
And where what you read, hear and see is always an invitation to participate and create, rather than a one-way broadcast.

Around the world, people are building a new place on the web that engenders the principles of transparency, openness, sharing, collaboration and participation. The open web is a conversation about how the world can be better, and how ordinary citizens can help build it as an example for others to follow.’

‘Pass it on’ says Jamie Oliver


Now this is clever. Jamie Oliver, in an effort to ‘get the country cooking again’, has launched a campaign called ‘Jamie’s Ministry of Food‘. The idea is to get people to start up small cooking schools all over the country by starting a ‘pass it on’ chain to teach Oliver’s simple recipes to friends. The name was inspired by a campaign during World War II in which the British government appointed the Ministry of Food to help families make the most of wartime rations by setting up a national network of ‘Food Advice’, educating the public about proper nutrition so they’d be healthy and fighting fit.

It’s great to see how intellectual property sharing methods are being used here. Oliver enables people to download high res logos (affiliating themselves to the campaign) to advertise their classes and has also given away recipes from his new book for free on his MySpace channel.

But the Terms and conditions on the campaign website are confusing. Everything on the site is restricted under copyright and trademark law, say the standard terms, ‘unless expressly stated otherwise’.

Intellectual Property Rights Including Copyright

  1. The names, images and logos identifying Jamie Oliver, Channel 4, all of our associated companies or third parties and any products and services are proprietary marks of these parties. Nothing in the Terms shall be construed as conferring to you any licence or right under any intellectual property right of all the above parties unless expressly stated otherwise.

‘Otherwise’ appears on this page where you can download ‘some cool logo’s to help you publicise your own Pass It On event’ but there is no detail on how far you are able to go here: use the logos on your website? use the logos offline only? use the logos if you are a commercial company in the food industry? offer the download from other sites?

The lack of detail is probably unimportant for most – but it is this lack of clarity that comes about the law is so completely out of synch with newly-accepted practice such as the non-commercial sharing of trademarks and copyright online.

What it also shows is how companies are having to experiment with practice methods of controlling their intellectual property without the aid of the law. A beautiful example of this is on the registration page of the site where Oliver asks that people ‘promise’ (without any reference to this in the legal Terms and conditions) that they only register to receive information if they are willing ‘to learn a recipe then Pass It On to at least two people’.

I’m looking forward to seeing the results!