Wednesday, 31 December 2008

...and a Happy New Year!

I'd like to wish a happy, healthy and peaceful 2009 to everyone out there. Make it a good one!

Image: BY-NC-ND

Radical sharing - Science Commons

A bit slow off the mark with this one but thanks for conference contributions also go to John Wilbanks for a fascinating talk on ‘radical sharing’.

Chris Rusbridge has already given a good overview of the talk on the Digital Curation Blog, so I will just mention a few highlights for me. A couple of the really helpful bits were the analogies he used when describing the operation of copyright in the digital world.

The first was a container and its contents. You can think of copyright as protecting the container but not the contents of the container. This is how copyright has long operated (it doesn’t protect ideas but the expression of those ideas). However, some of the licences users are forced to agree to lock that container. So although the copyright still operates in the same way access to the contents is reduced (in this case by contract). Open Access solves the legal problem but not the container problem.

The second analogy was helpful in explaining the differences in the way journals/books can be used now when they are (often) electronic as opposed to paper based. He compared this to the difference between buying and renting a house.

When you buy a paper based copy it is a hard copy and it is your hard copy. You are free to do what you like with it. This is like owning a house. Now that many publications are electronic it’s more similar to the renting/lease model. You can still read the publication (live in the house) but as with renting you are regulated by a contract which will add further conditions/limitations.

A further useful point that he highlighted is that using copyleft or sharealike in the data world actually hinders freedom. If two datasets with two different licences both based on copyleft or share alike (i.e requiring resulting works to be distributed under same terms) are used, when someone integrates that data and wants to put a licence on the resulting data they would be stuck because both licences insist the resulting data be made available under a particular licence. Thus, they can’t distribute that data without breaking the terms of one of the licences. Copyleft may work within communities where there is consensus on licensing terms but if the aim is to make it available outside that community it presents difficulties.

An example he gave of this was WikiPathways who just changed their licence terms from containing a share-alike condition to CC-BY. They’ve given up their right to sue but have given info to the world. They reward people who follow their intention with use of a trademark and ignore the people who don’t. The opposite way round from what we have come to expect.

John talked more about the approach of the Science Commons project to data sharing. I’m not going to go into this further here as it will be covered in the DCC Science Commons Legal Watch Paper in the New Year. I will however mention two of his other comments.

Firstly, that people are reluctant to share their data because they are worried someone else might muck it up. But it may not have occurred to them that someone else might do something brilliant with it. Something different from their emphasis, that they would not have done.

Secondly, looking back through history it can be seen that it is not unnatural to be in the position these advocates of openness find themselves in. Dislodging entrenched processes is hard work and stable systems are resistant to change on multiple levels. If this is to be the way ahead it will take some great effort to make it work and require voluntary action on the part of many.

One final thought - it occurred to me how often it is a contractual issue rather than a strict IP issue causing difficulty here. Although it is often the case (and correct me if you feel I’m wrong) that the contracts are made to seem more reasonable (and therefore more readily agreed to) through a misunderstanding/overstatement of the IP rights that actually exist.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Slides now available in relation to previous 'Healthy Consent' post

Just a quickie to say the slides for the very interesting keynote at the 4th International Digital Curation Conference given by Professor David Porteous are now available on the DCC website.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Experiences of data sharing in the CARMEN project

Thanks also to Alistair Knowles for his presentation about data sharing in the CARMEN project.

He talked about the difficulties of citation of data in cases of protracted ‘ownership’ and also cases of unknown ‘ownership’ (the inverted commas are mine).

His experience is that scientists are much more comfortable with informal agreements and are able to sort matters of ownership and citation amongst themselves. But when asked to formalise arrangements they got nervous and more reluctant to act.

He argued that the solution is not a legal one but a social one (agreement within the community), a conclusion also reached by myself and some others in the Legal and Policy Issues session of the Research Data theme at the JISC Innovation Forum in July of this year. For more details see my earlier post. Do you agree?

Healthy Consent

Spent a couple of days last week at the 4th International Digital Curation conference in Edinburgh. Lots of great speakers and the first day in particular brought up some interesting legal questions.

The keynote on the first day was provided by Prof David J Porteous, the director of the Centre for Molecular Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He discussed a project called Generation Scotland which he is involved in. Generation Scotland is a partnership between the Scottish University Medical Schools, Biomedical Research Institutes, the NHS in Scotland and the people of Scotland which aims to create more effective treatments based on gene knowledge. The project works with genomic data, which is personal and therefore of interest to me from a data protection perspective.

Fascinating talk. Loads of interesting explanation of the background, why they do what they do and the potential benefits. An overview of the impact of environment, wealth, diet and smoking in life expectancy and brief discussion of how much health is dictated by those environmental factors and how much by nature, which is where the genome comes in.

Health is a major priority for the Scottish Government and it only takes a peremptory look at Prof Porteous’ ‘disease prevalence’ maps of the UK to see why. The DCC has its headquarters in Edinburgh and many staff at HATII in Glasgow – so you could say the future of excellent digital curation relies on the work of Generation Scotland ;-)

The subjects of the research conducted by Generation Scotland are volunteers. As will be immediately apparent the kind of data the project collects and uses is not only personal data but sensitive personal data (as defined by the Data Protection Act 1998) which brings up legal as well as ethical issues. The project addresses these through coding and anonymisation of the data to make it ethically sound and secure.

The discussion around consent was particularly interesting. The subjects give ‘open consent’ instead of the usual ‘informed consent’. My understanding is that, on a practical level, this means something like “Trust us. We don’t know what we will do with your data in the future but we will tell you and you have the right to withdraw if you don’t like it”.

This right to withdraw is important and, as Prof Porteous explained, a guiding principle of the project. Generation Scotland needs the ability to remove a subject’s data should they ask to be withdrawn. However, they can’t go back and change anything that’s happened already. This leads to all sorts of questions about what can still be inferred.

There was also some discussion about who owns and controls the data. As I mentioned the other day this is a tricky area. I learnt something new here. The data is owned by the Scottish Government. Some may be surprised by this, indeed that was my immediate reaction and I can see it argued two ways – but that is for another day (do feel free to remind me). But it must be remembered that the owners of the data may not be the same people as those who have rights or corresponding responsibilities in relation to that data. As I said last Monday – eugh!

Prof Porteous finished by touching on a catch 22 situation found in relation to the Generation Scotland work – the requirement for consent to gain consent. On the one hand this is restricting research, and in the vital area of health at that. On the other hand, moves to relax this have been criticised as threatening patient privacy. Do you have any thoughts on this? This is a new area for me and one I know very little of. But it sounds thought-provoking and ripe for a good debate – so let’s start one! (Another link on this...and another one to some people already having a debate)

Lastly, a question that arose for me in response to the answer to a query from a gentleman in the audience. Should consent requirements be different depending on whether the personal data is to be used on behalf of the nation or for commercial benefit? What do you think?

Well that’s me for now. I’ll be back later today. A big thanks to Prof Porteous for such a fascinating start to the conference.

P.S. He mentioned the a book called ‘The Grim Reaper’s Road Map - An Atlas of Mortality in Britain'. Great title - got to be worth a look on Amazon at least!

P.P.S. shocking fact – although life expectancy has been increasing over time the young of today are predicted to live less long than the generation before them. As an advocate of people taking increased responsibility for their own lives, and in particularly their own health, this to me sounds like a rather loud call to action. It’s not curation, or legal but it is very important.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Next Legal Watch Paper - Science Commons

Next Legal Watch Paper is on the topic of Science Commons.

What would you like to see covered in there? Any burning questions? Now’s your chance!

By the way, if Science Commons is something that interests you, we have John Wilbanks (VP of Science Commons) speaking at the 4th International Digital Curation Conference tomorrow. Perhaps I’ll see you there. And for those who can’t make it – I’ll blawg about it very soon.

'Ownership of data' – uuuughh!

'Ownership of data' – uuuughh! The phrase gives me a shiver just thinking about it. A contentious area rife with complication, confusion and misunderstanding. That said, a super important area, especially for those of us interested in curation and scientific progress in general (perhaps less so for a landscape gardener say).

I was reading the Oaklaw report ‘Building the Infrastructure for Data Access and Reuse in Collaborative Research’ and noticed a couple of interesting pages (‘Chapter 2: Key Concepts’ Paras 2.16 – 2.22 if you’re interested).

The report looked at what is meant by the term “ownership” in relation to data. It identified nine different parties who might claim rights in data. These were:

  1. the creator – the party who creates or generates the data;
  2. the consumer – the party who uses the data;
  3. the compiler – the party who selects and compiles information from different information sources;
  4. the funder – the party who commissions the data to be generated;
  5. the decoder – where informed is protected by encoded formats (e.g. encryption), the party who can unlock the information;
  6. the packager – the party who collects information for a particular use and adds value through formatting it for a particular market or set of consumers;
  7. the reader – the person who reads data added to an information repository;
  8. the subject of the data – the person from whom the data is derived or who the data is about; and
  9. the purchaser or licensee – the party who buys or licences the data.

Your thoughts? What do you think of this list? What does ownership of data mean to you? Do you consider yourself an ‘owner’ of data? And if so, what is your relationship to that data? Am I missing the point and it’s all ridiculously simple?

All input welcomed and appreciated.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

More on Google v AAP

Following on from my earlier post about the settlement between Google and the AAP I read an interesting analysis of this from Fred von Lohmann at the EFF. Take a read yourself.

Two areas of particular interest to me are the impact on the doctrine of fair use (the U.S. equivalent of fair dealing) and the impact on privacy. Fred’s analysis covers both of these with notable paragraphs being:

...this outcome is plainly second-best from the point of view of those who believe Google would have won the fair use question at the heart of the case. A legal ruling that scanning books to provide indexing and search is a fair use would have benefited the public by setting a precedent on which everyone could rely, thus limiting publishers' control over the activities of future book scanners. In contrast, only Google gets to rely on this settlement agreement, and the agreement embodies many concessions that a fair user shouldn't have to make."
(For a short analysis of Google’s Fair Use argument see this EFF posting from back in 2005)
Privacy: The agreement apparently envisions a world where Google keeps all of the electronic books that you "purchase" on an "electronic shelf" for you. In other words, in order to read the books you've paid for, you have to log into Google. Google is also likely to keep track of which books you browse (at least if you're logged in). This is a huge change in the privacy we traditionally enjoy in libraries and bookstores, where nobody writes down "Fred von Lohmann entered the store at 19:42:08 and spent 2.2 minutes on page 28 of 0-486-66980-7, 3.1 minutes on page 29, and 2.8 minutes on page 30." If Google becomes the default place to search, browse, and buy books, it will be able to keep unprecedented track of what you read, how you read it, and collate that with all the other information it has about you. Does the agreement contain ironclad protections for user privacy?

What are your thoughts on the impact of this settlement for future users?

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Google and the AAP Settle

In the news today…

Google and the Association of American Publishers (the AAP), who were suing Google to stop the Google Library Project, have today announced a settlement agreement. The agreement is on behalf of a wide range of authors and publishers worldwide and will expand online access to millions of in-copyright books and written materials.

It has been reported that:

“The agreement promises to benefit readers and researchers, and enhance the ability of authors and publishers to distribute their content in digital form, by significantly expanding online access to works through Google Book Search, an ambitious effort to make millions of books searchable via the Web. The agreement acknowledges the rights and interests of copyright owners, provides an efficient means for them to control how their intellectual property is accessed online and enables them to receive compensation for online access to their works.”

You can find more details of this in Peter Suber’s post on the Open Access News blog or on the AAP's own website.

Image by manfrys on Flickr BY-SA

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Medicine/IT/IP conference - Call For Papers

The call for papers and posters for the SCRIPT-ed 2009 conference 'Governance of New Technologies: The Transformation of Medicine, Information Technology and Intellectual Property’ closes in just over three weeks time on Sat 15th November. The conference organisers are looking for 300 word abstracts at this stage.

The international, inter-disciplinary conference will focus on evolving and emerging technologies and new-technology-driven practices and their impact on the overlapping fields of (1) healthcare, (2) information technology and (3) intellectual property. It will take place in Edinburgh on the 29th to 31st March 2009.

You can find further information on the SCRIPTed website.

Rights & Repositories Resources

The presentations and reports from the JISC Rights & Repositories meeting held in
London last month can now be found online in the Repositories and Preservation section of the JISC website

The resources include PowerPoint presentations and top tips documents covering topics such as negotiating with rights holders, risk management and choosing the right licence.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

New Open Science Mailing List

Jonathan Gray of the Open Knowledge Foundation has set up a new mailing list for discussions/announcements relating to open science.

The new list aims to bring together people interested in open science across different domains - with a particular focus on open access and open data (cf. Science Commons’ Principles for open science).

You can read Jonathan’s blog post about the new list here

…and you can sign up for the list here.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Planned increase in maximum fine for on-line copyright infringement

Story from Outlaw that the Government plans to increase the maximum fine that Magistrates' Courts can award for online copyright infringement from £5,000 to £50,000.

The UK Government and the Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO) are consulting on plans, which would allow Magistrates' Courts in England and Wales to issue summary fines of £50,000 for online copyright infringement. The larger fine is proposed for commercial scale infringements, where the person involved profits from the infringement.

The plan would implement another of the recommendations of the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, the 2006 report by former Financial Times editor Andrew Gowers which has been the foundation of intellectual property policy since its publication.

"This consultation takes forward Gowers Review recommendation 36, which recommended matching penalties for online and physical copyright infringement by increasing sanctions for online infringements," said the UK-IPO in a statement.

The courts in Scotland and Northern Ireland operate differently from those in England and Wales, and there is no equivalent sentencing guideline system there, but the consultation suggests that those courts could still implement maximum fines (para 14 of the Executive Summary).

See the full story at Outlaw.

The consultation is open until 31 October. You can take a look at the consultation paper here. The questions they are consulting on are:

  • Do you think that POCA already provides an effective means of depriving offenders of the profits from IP crime?
  • Should exceptional summary maxima be introduced for all copyright offences in the CDPA?
  • Do you agree that one level (not to exceed £50,000) of exceptional statutory maxima should be set for all offences in the CDPA?
  • Do you have any general comments on how the magistrates’ courts deal with copyright offences?
  • Do you think that different levels of exceptional statutory maxima should be set for the various copyright offences?
  • Do you think exceptional statutory maxima should be introduced for all IP offences and should different levels be set for the various IP offences?

Monday, 18 August 2008

New DCC Legal Watch Paper Published

As promised, I wanted to let you know that the DCC has just published its latest Legal Watch Paper. The topic for this one is Creative Commons Licensing. The paper can be found in the Resource Centre section of the DCC website (as can many other useful things….)

What topics would you like to see covered in future Legal Watch Papers?

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Legal Issues from the JISC Innovation Forum (JIF)

Another thing that the Open Access overview highlighted is that OA is not limited to literature. It can apply to any digital content including raw and semi-raw data.

This reminded me of some of the discussion at the recent JISC Innovation Forum (JIF). The event was split into three themes and I was attending Theme b: Research data - Whose problem is it? The first session in our theme was ‘legal and policy issues’. The session took the form of a debate where Charles Oppenheim and I were debating the motion:

“Curating and sharing research data is best done where the researcher’s institution asserts IPR claims over the data”.

Charles was speaking for the motion and I was against. An open approach to data featured heavily in both the initial debate and the group discussion that followed.

A very brief summary of my argument in the debate is:

1. It is often best that IPR is not asserted because:

a. Often there is no IPR to assert in the data. Facts are not copyrightable therefore data that is merely fact is not copyrightable. We must also consider the database right but it should be noted that this is not as wide reaching as initially thought and covers databases not data.

b. Where IPRs do exist in the data, collaborations involving different jurisdictions, large numbers of institutions etc can make unravelling the ownership of those rights complicated. Large amounts of resources are spent/wasted agreeing these.

c. Open data has distinct advantages for downstream innovation. Look at the example of US public data. Science Commons now advocating waiving all rights and placing data in the public domain.

2. Answering counter argument of - don't we need IPRs as incentive to create? Well, in academic circles it is often more about attribution than economic advantage. As data merged and new data created this becomes more difficult. Answer for attribution lies in technology not IPR.

Mahendra Mahey kindly produced notes from the session (including coverage of Charles’ argument for the motion) which you can find by clicking on the link on the Legal and Policy Issues home page or by linking directly here.

What do you think? Do you agree with my argument (some of which is overstated for the purposes of the debate)? Or do you notice some flaws? I’m particularly interested in your thoughts on the legal aspects of sharing data.

Open Access continued....

What I omitted to say the other day when I posted about Peter Suber’s Open Access Overview was that I found it really useful. I learnt a lot, confirmed a lot and am very grateful to Peter for producing it.

I had only two queries about what was written. The first was from the third paragraph which started “The legal basis of OA is either the consent of the copyright holder or the public domain, usually the former.” This went on to say that:

“Because OA uses copyright-holder consent, or the expiration of copyright, it does not require the abolition, reform, or infringement of copyright law.”

Or does it? I agree with Peter to a great extent but I also think we must remember the difficulties that can arise in establishing ownership of copyright whether that is in case of multiple contributors, academic/university produced works, funder requirements or orphan works. In my view reform in this area would be helpful to the OA cause.

What do you think?

The other area was in the paragraph about OA serving the interests of many groups. I was particularly interested in the funding agencies part of this and pleased to see that Peter had identified two benefits for them. The description went as follows:

“Funding agencies: OA increases the return on their investment in research, making the results of the funded research more widely available, more discoverable, more retrievable, and more useful. OA serves public funding agencies in a second way as well, by providing public access to the results of publicly-funded research.”

I’m very possibly missing something but aren’t these two the same thing? I’d be ever so grateful if someone could point out anything I’m missing.

Monday, 4 August 2008

IP Conference – free registration

Here’s an interesting looking conference taking place in Helsinki, Finland this October.


International Conference

1 – 3 October 2008
Hotel Rantapuisto, Vuosaari, Helsinki

Hosted by IPR University Center and the INNOCENT Graduate School

Globally, the intellectual property (IP) system has become fragmented and complicated. It is contested by the internet generation and many academics for outdated protection schemes. It is contested by developing countries for its imbalance. It is contested by rightholders for providing mainly national protection and weak enforcement mechanisms in a global economy.

The future structure of IP system has been widely debated for years. IPR University Center (University of Helsinki) wants to give a contribution to this important debate by organising a high level academic conference in October 2008.

One Right System For IP – Vision Impossible? is a multidisciplinary conference focusing mainly on legal aspects. It is aimed at European researchers in law, economics and technology, as well as practitioners interested in intellectual property rights.

You can take a look at the programme here. A number of the papers look like they could be very good. In particular, the two taking place late morning on Thursday 2nd could have some relevance for digital curation:

The Changing Purposes of IP Protection: A Basis For Convergence?
Professor Graeme Dinwoodie, Chicago-Kent College of Law


Evolving New Markets for IP and its Implications
Dr Ilkka Rahnasto, Vice President, IPR, Nokia Corporation

What’s more - the conference is free of charge!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Quote of the Day

With all the debate and discussion that flows about various legal and illegal forms of copying in the digital age, I like this quote which takes us back to a simpler time.....

"They copied all they could follow, but they couldn't copy my mind, so I left them sweating and stealing a year and a half behind. "
(Rudyard Kipling)

Open Access 101

Looking for an overview of Open Access? I’ve just finished reading this one provided by Peter Suber. Peter Suber is, amongst other things, editor of the very useful Open Access News blog.

Want something even shorter? Check this one out.

Want it in Spanish? Or Slovenian perhaps? He covers that too!

Impact of Copyright Law on Digital Preservation

WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organisation) has just released an International Study on the Impact of Copyright Law on Digital Preservation. The study focuses on the copyright and related laws of Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States and the impact of those laws on digital preservation of copyrighted works. It also addresses proposals for legislative reform and efforts to develop non-legislative solutions to the challenges that copyright law presents for digital preservation.

Peter Suber gives a useful summary of the study and comments on it from an open access perspective on his blog. You can take a look at his thoughts here.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Freedom of Information: what relevance to researchers?

An announcement from the Research Information Network (RIN) about a workshop for researchers on the topic of FoI.

"Freedom of Information: what relevance to researchers?

9 September 2008, 10:00 - 16:00

Royal Institute of Public Health, 28 Portland Place, London W1

The Freedom of Information (FoI) Act came fully into force in 2005.
The Act imposes significant duties and responsibilities on public
authorities to give access to information. Together with the Data
Protection Act and the Environmental Information Regulations, FoI is
a significant part of the wider government agenda to increase
openness, transparency, trust and accountability in the public sector.

In this context, the Research Information Network is organizing a
workshop to raise awareness of FoI as a resource discovery tool for
the research community; to help researchers become 'informed
consumers' under the new access regime; and to look at instances
where use of the FoI Act has been beneficial to researchers. Speakers
at the event, to be chaired by Maurice Frankel of the Campaign for
Freedom of Information, will include Professor Duncan Tanner (Bangor
University), Steve Wood (Information Commissioner's Office) and
Teresa Bastow (The National Archives)."

Click here for further information, programme and registration.

Making use of the FoI legislation a resource discovery tool is a topic I have covered in a number of my presentations so I do feel this could be a useful workshop for many.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Opening up about licences

I was at the DCC / Edinburgh e-Science Collaborative Workshop at National eScience Centre last week. Although I was the only speaker from a legal background, legal topics were mentioned by a number of the other speakers. It was evident that increased use of open and more permissive licensing by scientific journals in particular would have a massive positive impact on certain eScience projects.

If you’d like to take a further look, the slides from the day will be available here.

Coincidentally (and with fortuitous timing) the DCC will be publishing a Legal Watch Paper on Creative Commons licences in July so do keep an eye out for this. I will give you a head’s up!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Clearing a Path Through the Copyright Jungle

The British Academy, together with the Publishers Association, have released yesterday a set of Joint Guidelines on Copyright and Academic Research. The announcement was as follows:

"A unique collaboration between two contrasting organisations wanting to cast light on the tangled world of copyright permissions and payments bears fruit today (30 April 2008) with the publication of a set of Joint Guidelines on Copyright and Academic Research.

The collaborators are the Publishers Association, the leading trade organisation serving book, journal, and electronic publishers in the UK, and the British Academy, which speaks nationally for the humanities and social sciences – the discipline areas where copyright issues have caused most confusion.
Designed to clear a path through the complex jungle of copyright legislation, the Joint Guidelines set out to provide practical, objective guidance for the layman and woman, endorsed both from the perspective of the academic researcher and that of the publisher and copyright ‘guardian’.

Authors, publishers and researchers frequently face daily uncertainty as to their respective rights and obligations regarding copyright. The Guidelines address the most frequent problems encountered, including fair dealing exemptions, the terms of protection for different types of materials, widespread confusion over copyright for material held in digital form, and difficult ownership issues, including the troublesome subject of “orphan works”."
You may download or view a copy of the guidelines here.

I have not yet read them yet but I do know that I will be skipping to the section on databases first as IPR in these wonderful creatures is a hot topic for me at the moment. However, with the guidelines being aimed at the humanities and social sciences I fear there will not be enough detail on this important issue to satisfy those involved in eScience.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Extending access to online resources - Survey deadline this Wednesday

Last few days to fill in a survey released by JISC Collections concerning the extension of access to online resources for non-traditional user groups that are not currently provided for within the JISC Model Licence.
This project is called the Additional Authorised User Initiative (AAUI). The AAUI is designed to meet the wider access requirements generated by new user groups by providing a new framework for negotiating and licensing online resources. It is intended that the framework will enable institutions and the publishers who supply them to manage this extended access in an orderly and legally robust manner.

The survey is being conducted in order to:

i. gain feedback on whether or not you are aware of the AAUI
ii. determine whether the Additional Authorised User Licences currently
meet your needs
iii. obtain help in widening access to new user groups

If you would like to take part in the survey, please complete the online
response form
by Wednesday 30th April.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Another Copyright Project - I Kant Believe It

Saw an interesting post on the popular science website PopSci.Com. In "Dead Guys Sound Off On Copyright" Matt Ransford talks about copyright as "arguably the most heated and oft-discussed topic in regard to the Internet and all that it has become. " In these days of DRM, music downloading and Creative Commons, Ransford highlights a project that is looking back through the years to find out how far we've come on this topic.

Sponsored by the AHRC, the project is called Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900). It's website offers to the public original papers that have long been archived in libraries across the world.

"Fifty core documents were chosen each from Germany, France, and Britain, along with twenty from Italy and the United States. Each has been scanned, transcribed, translated, and annotated with related documents. Many of the great minds of the past 500 years are represented: Machiavelli, Luther, Kant, Locke, Balzac, and Hugo, for example."
You can find more information and gain access the resources on the project's website.

Pop Culture meets Law

I just finished writing a DCC Legal Watch Paper on medical data sharing and privacy yesterday. Interesting then today to come across a reference to this story. Much too low brow for the Legal Watch Paper :-) but an interesting example of medical data privacy issues in practice nonetheless!

Image by We're Britney's Fans on Flickr BY-NC-SA

FOI Podcast!

For those if you that are fans of this format, you might be interested to know of the monthly podcast produced by Ibrahim Hasan. Ibrahim discusses all the latest FOI decisions and gives his personal views as to how they affect FOI practice. There are also interviews with experts and FOI stakeholders.

You can access the podcast here. You may also listen to previous podcasts or read the full transcripts.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Two new FOI publications

JISC Legal has recently released two update papers on Freedom of Information (FOI).

The first is a short ‘essentials’ paper giving a summary of the main provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and highlighting what colleges and universities need to consider in order to comply with the Act.

The second is much a longer paper which they term ‘overview’ but is really quite detailed. This gives a fuller explanation of the responsibilities of public authorities, publication schemes, requests for information, and the exemptions to these. It also touches on related legislation such as the Environmental Information Regulations and Data Protection.

( FYI - the DCC will publish a Legal Watch paper on the Environmental Information Regulations towards the end of this year. There is already a briefing paper on Data Protection in the Resources section of the DCC website as well as an older one on FOI).

For those of you who don’t know about it, a bit more info on JISC Legal.
The JISC Legal Information service is funded by the JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee) and hosted by Strathclyde University
The principle aims of the service are:
1. To disseminate information and to raise awareness of the legal issues relating to the use of information technology particularly with reference to the following:
• Data Protection
• Intellectual Property Rights
• Human Rights
• Freedom of Information
• Disability and The Law
• E-Security (Monitoring and Encryption)
• Cyber-crime and Criminal Liability
• ISP (Internet Service Provider) Liability

2. To follow relevant court cases and legislative developments within the United Kingdom (and where relevant internationally) and examine the effect such developments may have on the sector.

3. To co-ordinate and liaise with FE and HE organisations, relevant regulatory bodies, projects and studies in areas related to the remit of the service.

Check out their website for lots of useful IT-related legal information.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Special Issue on Open Data

The February issue of Open Source Business Resource is devoted to Open Data. Here are the articles:

• Dru Lavigne, Editorial
• Tracey P. Lauriault and Hugh McGuire, Data Access in Canada:
• Joseph Potvin, How is Copyright Relevant to Source Data and Source Code?
• Jordan Hatcher, Implementing Open Data: The Open Data Commons Project
• Ismael Peña-López, The Personal Research Portal

Image by diylibrarian on Flickr CC-NC-SA

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Egypt to Copyright Pyramids

I missed this interesting copyright story over Christmas. The Egyptian government announced a proposed law that will require royalties to be paid when copies are made of artifacts or monuments such as the sphinx or the pyramids. Only exact, to-scale replicas would be subject to royalties. Copyright experts have questioned whether the law would be enforceable internationally.

What do you think of this?

You can check out coverage of the story below:


National Geographic

Slashdot (what a great name for a site!)

Open Data: An interview with Peter Murray-Rust

You may have already seen this but if not do take a look at Richard Poynder’s interview with Peter Murray-Rust. It’s so informative. The links to relevant documents, sites and blog posts are invaluable.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Great new FOI resource!....coming soon to a computer near you

You may have heard of a group called They’re a charitable organisation that builds websites that give people simple, tangible benefits in the civic and community aspects of their lives. They’ve built loads of really useful websites such as PledgeBank, TheyWorkforYou and FixMyStreet. I’ve been an admirer and user of their sites for some time.

Well they have another one in the offing and this time it’s based on Freedom of Information legislation

The new site will help people make Freedom of Information requests from different parts of government. It will then archive the responses on the web.

Keep your eyes peeled!

… oh go on then – I’ll make sure I tell you so there’s no hard work involved for you!

New Journal!

A new journal has been brought to my attention called Studies in Ethics, Law, and Technology.

You can find the launch issue online at

The following announcement was released:

"The Berkeley Electronic Press is pleased to announce the launch of a new
peer-reviewed journal in law, policy, and technology. Studies in Ethics,
Law, and Technology examines the ethical and
legal issues that arise from emerging technologies. Topics include biotech,
nanotech, neurotech, IT, weapons, energy and fuel, space-based technology,
and new media and communications. Articles explore the synergy between law
and ethics, and provide a robust policy response to technology's
opportunities and challenges."

The launch issue focuses on questions of human enhancement, a topic I know little about. It will be interesting to keep an eye out for the themes of future issues in what promises to be an interesting journal.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Digital Copyright: opportunities and practicalities

Are you coming across copyright issues in the delivery of digital content? There is an event coming up in London on 22 February that may be of use to you.

Digital Copyright: opportunities and practicalities
Presented in association with Naomi Korn, copyright consultant.

Copyright is a current and important topic for many organisations, particularly those that are considering digitising and delivering digital content in order to make sure that their rights are not infringed upon and their assets are fully exploited. This all-day course will focus upon participant's experiences and case studies. It
will encourage group work and discussion around key areas, whilst focusing on current topics and real world digital issues. This course will appeal to everyone currently digitising content or thinking of embarking on a digital project who wishes to learn more about rights issues. Participants are invited to bring case studies and outlines of current projects to the session.

By the end of the day, participants will:

* Encounter the key issues relating to digital copyright
* Know the importance of managing and protecting their rights
* Share experiences and good practice tips with other participants
* Gain knowledge about how best practice can
be embedded within their daily work

Naomi Korn is an experienced trainer and consultant, specialising in copyright, IPR, licencing and digital rights management. She has
worked for many years with museums, galleries, archives, libraries and the higher/further education sector. She was the former copyright officer at the Tate and has contributed to many international projects. She is currently MDA's IP Officer and chair of MDA's IP Advisory Committee for Collections.

Sessions include:

* Copyright in a global environment: overview of
the legal landscape and key issues
* Digitisation and copyright: what can you digitise and when should you?
* Digital Rights Exploitation: generating income from copyright
* Delivering content on the web: practical tips for protecting your rights
* Institutional Intellectual Property Audit
* Digital Rights management: solutions and shortcuts
* Case studies

For further details and booking click here.

Courses are £140 (no VAT) per person and are
based in London at King's College London.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

We’re All Copyright Managers!

Here is a short article by Lesley Ellen Harris which she has recently posted on a number of mailing lists. In the piece she highlights the increasing need for non-lawyers to understand copyright laws. Take heed!

Librarians Without Lawyers
Librarians Acting as Copyright Managers

Copyright Law Affects Us All

Copyright law is complicated - even for lawyers - and even for copyright lawyers who deal with copyright issues on a daily basis. Yet because of the application of the law in a broad variety of sectors, individuals with no legal backgrounds must learn about copyright law to protect their own works, negotiate permissions for others to use their content, interpret licenses for the use of online content, work within a regime governed by copyright law, and generally manage a variety of copyright issues. Visual artists, writers, photographers and filmmakers are all in professions where their income is based on copyright law. Educators, librarians, archivists and other information professionals are involved in daily activities which must be undertaken within the confines of copyright law. With the Internet, often all of these non-lawyers must understand international copyright treaties and foreign copyright laws as well as the copyright laws in their own countries – at least on a practical level.

Interpreting Fair Use/Dealing

In fact, certain provisions in copyright statutes like the U.S. fair use, or fair dealing, are intended for individuals to interpret. Therefore, if an artist wants to create an artistic work incorporating works of others, that artist must determine whether her use is fair use/dealing as if a judge in a court were deciding that same issue based on those particular circumstances. The same is true for a librarian or educator photocopying print material for use for her patrons or colleagues, or trying to explain to someone why free content obtained on the Internet is not necessarily free to forward (as opposed to forwarding a link to access that same content).

Non-Lawyers Interpreting the Law

Of course, some individuals may be able to benefit from in-house legal advice. Authors of books may sometimes rely upon the advice of their publishers' attorneys. However, many author agreements put the burden on the individual author to ensure that an author's work does not infringe upon the rights of others and that all proper copyright permissions have been obtained. Those who work in universities or larger organizations may have access to their in-house attorneys for advice on copyright issues. But even with such access, many individuals complain that the advice or answers take too long to obtain and that they must analyze the copyright issues themselves in order to get on with their work.

There are many librarians and content owners who continually are negotiating permissions and licenses to copyright-protected works and who have much more practical experience than any attorney. These are often our colleagues with whom we can gain much insight.

Copyright Manager

The reality in copyright-based industries is that individuals must understand copyright law, contract law, litigation issues, risk management and be effective negotiators. Many enterprises now have positions occupied by non-lawyers that relate to copyright. Often, these positions are filled by information professionals. For instance, a Copyright Officer may be responsible for copyright management issues. A Licensing Officer may be responsible for negotiating digital licenses, and explaining the legal uses of digital content within their enterprise. Non-lawyers who are put in a "copyright management" position should take some comfort from the recognition that they are not alone.

The article is published in SLA Information Outlook, January 2008.

Conflict between copyright and data protection - talk tomorrow

For those in the Edinburgh, UK area you may be interested in a free talk talking place at the law school tomorrow by visiting professor, Margaret Ann Wilkinson.

Professor Wilkinson is speaking about conflict between copyright and data protection - an unusual coupling. I have seen discussions of the conflict between copyright and freedom of information, or data protection and freedom of information but I have not seen someone discuss a conflict between copyright and data protection before so this will hopefully be interesting.

"Wednesday 16th January 2008 at 13:00

Lecture Theatre G.270, Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh

"Battleground between new and old orders: control conflicts between copyright and personal data protection."

Professor Margaret Ann Wilkinson

School of Law, University of Western Ontario

Professor Wilkinson is Director of the Area of Concentration in Intellectual Property, Information and Technology Law. Prior to her graduate studies, Professor Wilkinson practiced law in Toronto for several years. She first joined the Faculty of Law in 1991. In 1992, she became jointly appointed to the Faculty of Law and the then Graduate School of Library and Information Science, now the Faculty of Information and Media Studies. She retains her supervisory status for doctoral students in Library and Information Science and her supervisory status in the Graduate Program in Law, but is, since 2007, fully appointed to the Faculty of Law.

She is also an Adjunct Professor at The Richard Ivey School of Business. Her thesis on "The Impact of the Ontario Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 1987 upon Affected Organizations", won the American Society for Information Science Doctoral Dissertation Award. Professor Wilkinson has spoken and published in the areas of intellectual property, information policy and information and media law, as well as in the areas of management, professionalism and professional ethics.

All Welcome"

I will post some notes on this in the coming weeks.

Monday, 7 January 2008

New Protocol for Implementing Open Access Data

First day back today - I have some exciting law/digital curation news for you.

You may remember my posts back in October about the development of an open data commons database licence. Well, work on this has progressed and just before Christmas Science Commons announced a protocol for implementing open access data. The announcement was as follows:

"Today, in conjunction with the Creative Commons 5th Birthday celebration, Science Commons announces the Protocol for Implementing Open Access Data (”the Protocol”).

The Protocol is a method for ensuring that scientific databases can be legally integrated with one another. The Protocol is built on the public domain status of data in many countries (including the United States) and provides legal certainty to both data deposit and data use. The protocol is not a license or legal tool in itself, but instead a methodology for a) creating such legal tools and b) marking data already in the public domain for machine-assisted discovery.

You can read the Protocol here.

We built the Protocol after a year- long process of meetings and consultations with a broad set of stakeholders, including representatives of the geospatial and biodiversity science communities. We solicited input from international representatives from China, Uganda, Brazil, Japan, France, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Colombia, Peru, Belgium, Catalonia and Spain.

We expect to convert this work into a working group with founding members from our existing communities of practice. However, the world is moving very quickly in terms of data production, and as such we created the Protocol as a guide and as a tool to bring together the existing data licensing regimes into a single space.

As part of that decision, Science Commons has worked with data licensing thought leaders and is pleased to announce partnerships with Jordan Hatcher, the lawyer behind the Open Database License; Talis, the company behind the Open Database License process; and the Open Knowledge Foundation, creators of the Open Knowledge Definition.

Jordan has drafted the Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and License - the first legal tool to fully implement the Protocol. It is available at his Web site. This draft is remarkable not just for the Public Domain Dedication but for the encoding of scholarly and scientific norms into a standalone, non-legal document. This is a key element of the Protocol and a major milestone in the fight for Open Access data. Talis, a company with a strong history in the open science data movement, played a key role in birthing Jordan’s work, and we’re pleased to work with them as well.

We are also pleased to announce that the Open Knowledge Foundation has certified the Protocol as conforming to the Open Knowledge Definition. We think it’s important to avoid legal fragmentation at the early stages, and that one way to avoid that fragmentation is to work with the existing thought leaders like the OKF.

We will be launching a wiki for comments on the Protocol soon, and will announce a strategy for versioning the Protocol in 2008."

I'll keep you updated!