Repost of Principles for Open Humanities and Literature

A while ago, I posted about the Panton Principles for Humanities and Literature. The Panton Principles are a set of guide lines for the development of Open Science and at the last Open Knowledge Foundation conference in London, I badgered Jonathan Gray about the idea of porting them to Literature and Humanities.

One Sunday afternoon in a Skype meeting, James Harriman-Smith and I created the principles. In the spirit of keeping the debate alive (and because the website has gone down), I have linked to the Principles as posted to the Open Literature mailing list (defunct I am afraid but join us at Open Humanities) by James Harriman-Smith.

Version with notes:

1) “When publishing a work, an explicit and robust statement about the uses to which all elements of that work (including annotation, introduction,
index, etc.) may be put.”
– The original Panton Principles talk about ‘data’. We chose not to keep this word as talking about humanities’ ‘data’ seemed unclear and potentially limiting. ‘Work’, a term already used to describe everything from plays to
sonatas, letters, sculptures and printed objects, provided a term both recognisable to any humanist and sufficiently large to cover the scope of potential cultural artefacts covered by these principles. ‘Content’, although tempting, was felt to ignore such important elements as, say, in the case of books, annotations, critical notes, printing and publishing choices, etc.
– ‘Work’ also puts the focus on the ‘finished’ object, one that is considered ready for publication (/performing/broadcasting/exhibition, etc.). These principles are, after all, meant to guide those looking to publish something in an open way.
– Finally, to repeat a line from the original Panton Principles: “this statement should be precise, irrevocable, and based on an appropriate and recognized legal statement in the form of a waiver or license.”

2) “Use a recognized waiver or license that is appropriate for that work.”
– Unlike those working in the domain of scientific data, some of the best known licences are appropriated for work in the humanities. Creative Commons is one, as is the FreeArt licence (see: for why.)

3) “If you want your work to be effectively used, adapted, and added to by others it should be open as defined by the Open Content Definition – in particular non-commercial and other restrictive clauses should not be used.”
– The Open Content definition is here:, content is taken here only because it is the term of the Open Definition; it is to be understood in the largest possible sense.
– “adapted” has been added to the original list of actions in order to reflect the importance of being able to ‘remix’ works of art for new audiences, a process, we feel, both good for the original artist and for the adaptor.
– From the original version, we would also add that “the use of licenses which limit commercial re-use or limit the production of derivative works by excluding use for particular purposes or by specific persons or organizations is STRONGLY discouraged.” This point is particularly relevant with regard to enclosure of the public domain, as practised by Google Books.

4) “Explicit dedication of annotations, editorial matter, etc. embedded in the published work to the public domain is strongly recommended and ensures compliance with the Open Content Definition.”
– One additional point (inspired by the original principles), that this is all the more important with those works that have been publicly funded.

5) “Explicit declaration of sources is strongly recommended, regardless of their copyright status, in order to foster a culture of both ‘attibute’ and ‘share-alike’.”
– A greater uptake of SA-BY publication in the humanities will increase the incentive for others to publish in an open way, thus strengthening the position of those who have already done so.

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