At MER Conference, and the Smithosonian again.

I’m at the Managing Electronic Records Conference in Chicago, again volunteering as a student. I’m tired, but it’s been a good experience. One interesting thing to note is that it looks like the commercial and legal communities are going to be paying more attention to authenticity in the digital environment.

Peter Hirtle has a post up at Library Law about the recent actions of public.resource.org. To make a long story short, the group took the photos that they believe are in the public domain, ignored Smithsonian’s notices that they controlled the images, and are making them available to the public. Hirtle is a known proponent of open access to public domain works and has commented on archival issues with copyrighted material in the past (also linked from his post), and although he is somewhat sympathetic to the group’s arguments he thinks they crossed the line. I’m not so certain that what they did was illegal in all circumstances- I’ve read the policy, but I think that the idea that merely stating “By doing X you agree to Y” is just as ridiculous as anything else out there- but Hirtle also points out that we don’t know if all of those works are actually in the public domain. At any rate, the whole terms of use, EULA, and other contract and licensing restrictions in a digital world are in bad need of evaluation and possible reform, in my humble opinion.

Later I’ll try to write more about some of the problems archives and museums, in particular, face with this type of attempted control.

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