The shameful jailing of our cultural heritage

Having had some fun and games restoring my laptop after the combination of Norton AntiVirus and Windows decided to lock up completely, I’ve just re-installed Ubuntu so apologies if you are waiting for anything from me.

I’ve just come across this post from Philippe AgrainĀ  on his blog (originally linked from OKF’s Open Humanities mailing list) regarding the recent agreement signed by the British Library and Google. The upshot appears to be that the present and future rights to public domain work has been given to Google. Sorry, public domain should stay in the public domain.

I was at a conference in Oxford a couple of years ago where some of these issues were being discussed and it sounded like the Library were having to do these sort of deals with Google (and, I believe at the time, Microsoft – who pulled out eventually) through the costs and technical expertise needed. I’m pretty sure that these could be sourced or bodged in Britain and Europe if the will is there. I rather fear, in the UK at least, that we do not have the will here particularly at the moment. Yet again, we might be echoing Eric Schmidt’s point made in the recent MacTaggart speech at the 2011 Edinburgh TV festival: that the UK helped invent so many things and then failed to follow through. Rather than being in the technical sphere, we’re now doing this in the cultural sphere – and this surely cannot be right, can it?

The Open Knowledge Foundation, with Creative Commons and Centrum Cyfrowe, are organising a workshop on opening cultural, library and museum metadata.

One hopes that the British Library are going or any of our cultural mavens. We have a rich cultural heritage, we cannot have it locked away in certain companies.