Expanded access to JSTOR and Artstor further extended: a letter from Kevin Guthrie and Rebecca Seger – ITHAKA

“The challenges faced by the higher education community due to COVID-19 are deep and lasting. We are all affected and need to respond. At ITHAKA, our not-for-profit mission is to make access to knowledge and education more accessible for all. We have asked ourselves what it means to fulfill that mission during these difficult times and have discussed with our trustees creative ways we can respond. Through these discussions we decided to establish a $4 million fee relief program and to develop a range of expanded access offerings to help schools and universities that have had to rapidly pivot to online instruction.

Our expanded access offerings for JSTOR-participating institutions in response to COVID-19 include access to unlicensed JSTOR Archive and Primary Source collections as well as Artstor at no cost. Participation in these programs has been remarkable; to date this content has been accessed more than 24 million times by users at nearly 12,000 institutions….”

Texas Art Project: Digitized Microfilmed Archives | University of Houston Libraries

“Thanks to a Texas State Library and Archives Commission TexTreasures grant funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), over 100 reels of microfilmed archives documenting women and underrepresented communities in Texas visual arts will be digitized and made accessible online.

The Texas Art Project is an extensive collection of visual arts history preserved at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) library. Between 1978 and 1985, MFAH contacted artists, galleries, and arts organizations across Texas to document unique manuscript papers and research materials on microfilm, as part of the Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art (AAA). The project yielded nearly 700 reels, a subset of which featured materials from women artists, artists of color, and galleries that hosted them. This subset is the focus of the TexTreasures grant which allowed University of Houston Libraries Special Collections and MFAH to collaborate on the digitization of approximately 150,000 images, previously available only in a limited, localized capacity in microfilm at MFAH. Digitized images of materials such as correspondence, exhibition catalogs, reviews, and publications will become openly available online with multiple points of access, thereby facilitating scholarship and research using unique primary sources….”

Creative Commons: Das Städel Museum stellt mehr als 22.000 Kunstwerke zur freien Verfügung | Städel Museum

From Google’s English:  “The Städel Museum makes more than 22,000 works of art freely available in its digital collection with the Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 4.0. This enables a broad public interested in art to reproduce and share the public domain images of the works, naming the Städel Museum, and to use and edit them for any purpose. Popular works of art by the Städel, such as Sandro Botticelli’s Ideal Feminine Portrait (Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci as a Nymph) (approx. 1480), Franz Marc’s Lying Dog in the Snow (approx. 1911), Paula Modersohn-Becker’s Lying Man under a Blooming Tree (1903), Rembrandts Self-portrait leaning against a stone wall (1639) or Johannes Vermeer’s The Geographer(1669) are thus made available for free download via the digital collection. The aim is – in line with the founding idea – to make the Städel collection accessible to the public and, furthermore, to strengthen participation in the collective cultural property.”

Revisiting Access to Cultural Heritage in the Public Domain: EU and International Developments | SpringerLink

Abstract:  In the past year, a number of legal developments have accelerated discussions around whether intellectual property rights can be claimed in materials generated during the reproduction of public domain works. This article analyses those developments, focusing on the 2018 German Federal Supreme Court decision Museumsfotos, Art. 14 of the 2019 Copyright and Related Rights in the Digital Single Market Directive, and relevant provisions of the 2019 Open Data and the Re-use of Public Sector Information Directive. It reveals that despite the growing consensus for protecting the public domain, there is a lack of practical guidance throughout the EU in legislation, jurisprudence, and literature on what reproduction media might attract new intellectual property rights, from scans to photography to 3D data. This leaves ample room for copyright to be claimed in reproduction materials produced by new technologies. Moreover, owners remain able to impose other restrictive measures around public domain works and data, like onsite photography bans, website terms and conditions, and exclusive arrangements with third parties. This article maps out these various legal gaps. It argues the pro-open culture spirit of the EU Directives should be embraced and provides guidance for Member States and heritage institutions around national implementation.

 

Revisiting Access to Cultural Heritage in the Public Domain: EU and International Developments | SpringerLink

Abstract:  In the past year, a number of legal developments have accelerated discussions around whether intellectual property rights can be claimed in materials generated during the reproduction of public domain works. This article analyses those developments, focusing on the 2018 German Federal Supreme Court decision Museumsfotos, Art. 14 of the 2019 Copyright and Related Rights in the Digital Single Market Directive, and relevant provisions of the 2019 Open Data and the Re-use of Public Sector Information Directive. It reveals that despite the growing consensus for protecting the public domain, there is a lack of practical guidance throughout the EU in legislation, jurisprudence, and literature on what reproduction media might attract new intellectual property rights, from scans to photography to 3D data. This leaves ample room for copyright to be claimed in reproduction materials produced by new technologies. Moreover, owners remain able to impose other restrictive measures around public domain works and data, like onsite photography bans, website terms and conditions, and exclusive arrangements with third parties. This article maps out these various legal gaps. It argues the pro-open culture spirit of the EU Directives should be embraced and provides guidance for Member States and heritage institutions around national implementation.

 

Podcast: How ‘open access’ helped SMK Denmark to increase reach & audience engagement

“Over the last decade, many museums around the world have adopted an open access policy. From the US to Europe, the opening up of museums has meant that anybody can use, reuse, remix collections without any copyright restrictions. At the core of open access is the commitment to make heritage accessible for people regardless of conduct social or geographical barriers. For museums, this move has contributed immensely to brand-building and added social value. But how?

The National Gallery of Denmark (the Statens Museum for Kunst, aka SMK) in Copenhagen is one of the premier art museums of the country and home to several European art treasures. In this podcast, I spoke with Jonas Heide Smith – Head of Digital at SMK about their approach, learnings and challenges. Give it a listen or read on for the key takeaways….”

What Are Digital Rights, and How Can Design Help Protect Them? | | Eye on Design

“When Castro joined Access Now in 2018, she came to the organization through her interest in open access, the movement for free and open information online. In graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, Castro realized that while most classic literature enters the public domain after the copyright expires, many books remain inaccessible because they aren’t reprinted or available in a readable format online. She found the problem to be especially prominent with books by women, whose work may have more easily fallen into obscurity, so she founded Cita Press, which publishes feminist books in the public domain. With Cita, Castro periodically selects open domain texts to republish, asks designers to redesign their covers, and formats them so that readers can print the books themselves, or read them via a custom e-reader on the site.

Even before starting Cita, Castro’s interest in open access was spurred by a stint working as a designer in the museum world, where so many images from museum collectives were technically public domain, yet there was no information around how to access them (and thus they largely went unused). “There’s an entire industry built on selling you things like stock images and stock illustrations that you could get for free,” she says. “Working in a museum, I realized there was no interest in making sure this was known, because it didn’t help them profit.”

 

Between graduating with her Master’s and joining Access Now, Castro attended a summer program at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, where she worked with the Harvard Open Access Project, which seeks to increase open access in regards to academic research. Castro says that while an interest in free and open information is what led her to work in digital rights, it isn’t a concept that is always readily embraced in design. “There‘s a ‘celebrity designer’ complex in design, in which authorship and personal voice is prized,” she says, “and that goes against the idea of collaborative design and open access.” With Cita, Castro uses design to literally expand open access to literary works, but perhaps just as important to designers interested in digital rights is the spirit of collaboration and belief in equal access to information that open access embodies. These ideas provided an important bedrock to Castro’s work with digital rights advocacy, and she feels that they could for others, too, in a design industry that values and teaches them….”

What Are Digital Rights, and How Can Design Help Protect Them? | | Eye on Design

“When Castro joined Access Now in 2018, she came to the organization through her interest in open access, the movement for free and open information online. In graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, Castro realized that while most classic literature enters the public domain after the copyright expires, many books remain inaccessible because they aren’t reprinted or available in a readable format online. She found the problem to be especially prominent with books by women, whose work may have more easily fallen into obscurity, so she founded Cita Press, which publishes feminist books in the public domain. With Cita, Castro periodically selects open domain texts to republish, asks designers to redesign their covers, and formats them so that readers can print the books themselves, or read them via a custom e-reader on the site.

Even before starting Cita, Castro’s interest in open access was spurred by a stint working as a designer in the museum world, where so many images from museum collectives were technically public domain, yet there was no information around how to access them (and thus they largely went unused). “There’s an entire industry built on selling you things like stock images and stock illustrations that you could get for free,” she says. “Working in a museum, I realized there was no interest in making sure this was known, because it didn’t help them profit.”

 

Between graduating with her Master’s and joining Access Now, Castro attended a summer program at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, where she worked with the Harvard Open Access Project, which seeks to increase open access in regards to academic research. Castro says that while an interest in free and open information is what led her to work in digital rights, it isn’t a concept that is always readily embraced in design. “There‘s a ‘celebrity designer’ complex in design, in which authorship and personal voice is prized,” she says, “and that goes against the idea of collaborative design and open access.” With Cita, Castro uses design to literally expand open access to literary works, but perhaps just as important to designers interested in digital rights is the spirit of collaboration and belief in equal access to information that open access embodies. These ideas provided an important bedrock to Castro’s work with digital rights advocacy, and she feels that they could for others, too, in a design industry that values and teaches them….”

The Increasingly Open World of Photography: A Conversation With Exposure’s Luke Beard

Over 300 million images are uploaded to Facebook a day. Yes, just Facebook. Once other social media and photo-sharing platforms like Flickr, Unsplash, Instagram, etc. are taken into account, that number quickly grows into the billions. 

A lot has changed since the dawn of photography in the 19th century—when Nicéphore Niépce (a.k.a. the “Father of Photography”) peered through his camera obscura from his upstairs window in France and created the oldest surviving photographic image in 1826. At that time, and for over a century, photography was restricted to (primarily white and Western) wealthy hobbyists and career professionals. However, photography has become more democratized, digitized, and open over time. This process began in the 1940s with Kodak’s “Brownie” camera, then quickened with the invention of the digital camera in the late 1980s, and finally culminated with the smartphone in the early 2000s. In 2019, the Pew Research Center estimated that 1/3rd of the world’s population has a smartphone. This means that billions of people have access to a camera! 

Niépce's View from the Window at Le Gras (1826 or 1827)Niépce’s “View from the Window at Le Gras” (1826 or 1827), the world’s oldest surviving photographic image, made using a camera obscura. Original plate (left) by Niépce; colorized reoriented enhancement (right) by Nguyen. Licensed CC BY-SA.

Along with the democratization and digitization of photography came the rise of open licensing (the CC License Suite was first released in 2002) and “free” photo-sharing and stock photography websites (Flickr was founded in 2004). Although these trends have many benefits, they’ve generally made professional photographers feel uneasy. As photographer and filmmaker Erin Jennings wrote in a 2019 essay, “Not only has accessible digital photography threatened the commercial photography industry, it has also thrown into question the very self-worth of many photographers whose identities were mired in the exclusivity of the analog process.” As a photographer, I understand this uneasiness as well as the apprehension that comes with publishing images under open licenses. I’ve certainly wondered: Is it OK that I’m willingly handing organizations and companies the ability to use my work for “free”? Will this lead to the expectation that photography should always be free? Does this devalue professional photography?

Along with the democratization and digitization of photography came the rise of open licensing and “free” photo-sharing and stock photography websites; although these trends have many benefits, they’ve also made professional photographers feel uneasy.

Luke BeardLuke Beard, Photographer and Designer; CEO and Founder of Exposure.

Over time, I’ve learned more about the purpose of open licenses and the rights photographers are guaranteed under them. For instance, the attribution requirement under CC licenses can actually help maintain the connection between photograph and photographer because the photographer’s name must be attributed if their work is reused. In the age of image theft and image overload, that’s significant. The range of licenses available also gives photographers more freedom to determine how their photography can be used beyond “all rights reserved,” and clarify that to potential users. For up-and-coming photographers, this can be especially useful for building a personal brand and an audience of potential clients.  Personally, I try to always openly license my work—something I recently learned was possible on Exposure, a storytelling platform for photographers and visual storytellers. After using the platform for years, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that the company had enabled CC BY-ND as a licensing option. It also made me curious: Why did a platform that serves as a creative outlet for professional photographers and storytellers decide to allow open licensing as an option?

To find out, I contacted Exposure Founder and CEO Luke Beard via email. A photographer himself, I also wanted to know his personal thoughts about open licensing and the democratization of photography. Our conversation below has been lightly edited for clarity and length. 


VH: The growing democratization of photography has led to a plethora of images online, primarily through free photo-sharing and stock photography websites. Has this trend impacted your identity as a professional photographer? Do you think it’s harming the industry? 

LB: I’d argue that Instagram has done more to change photography in the last decade than legacy and fledgling photo communities built around free sharing or stock [photography]. Instagram has a fairly large conversion rate. Its scale, reach, and impact on photography still feels unprecedented. It’s effectively one of the biggest stewards of the medium the world has ever seen.

The “professional photographer” part of my identity has a strong feeling around giving anything away for “free.” There are both potentially good and potentially negative outcomes, but it also depends on the context. You certainly learn a lot about what feels right or worth it by exploring free avenues. The communities that grow around services like Flickr can be incredible, and I’m sure many working photographers today got their start there. The proliferation of ways to discover photography though free, stock, or sharing [platforms] has certainly raised the bar both competition-wise and creativity-wise, and I’d say it has been a net positive.  

VH: There’s an ongoing debate within photography circles about open licensing and whether or not it harms professional photographers. What do you see as the benefits and drawbacks?

LB: The value of photography has simultaneously been raised and lowered as the internet economy has grown. As a visual medium—with amazing screens in the hands of ~3.5 billion people—photography has so much to offer for the foreseeable future.  

Exposure's HomepageExposure houses creative works from individual photographers, non-profit organizations, governments, and more.

Open licensing also has a lot to offer photographers who are looking for new and interesting ways to share their craft and earn work. On the one hand, you have platforms with a huge reach that take on the hard work of distributing and hosting your photos in exchange for an open license (e.g. Unsplash). The long-tail upside might be that someone thinks your style of photography is perfect and hires you for a shoot. The flip side is that free and openly licensed photos may lose all concept that there is a photographer behind the photo. This devalues both the photographer and the photo. I personally struggle with the idea of normalizing good photography as something that has no cost or doesn’t require credit—although, it’s important to point out that CC licenses do require attribution. A comparison would be this one: it’s hard to make good software, but free applications normalize the idea that software should cost nothing. 

There is still lots of work to be done to reap the benefits of open licensing, and the majority of this work falls to the stewards of the platforms and tools.

Without openly licensed photos, however, we wouldn’t have visually rich Wikipedia pages or great collections like NASA’s image gallery. For individual photographers, I think there still has to be a better way. Maybe the answer is a blockchain solution through micropayments or maybe just a better marketplace platform. There is still lots of work to be done to reap the benefits of open licensing, and the majority of this work falls to the stewards of the platforms and tools. I’m hopeful the benefits will greatly outweigh the negatives. 

VH: Can you explain why Exposure decided to offer an open licensing option and if there were any specific challenges when making and implementing that decision?

We have taken baby steps into offering an open license as a feature. For context, it’s a toggle you can switch “on” or “off” for specific stories. As the creator, you agree to a CC BY-ND license for your photography within that story. This idea initially came about because we wanted to give Exposure members the ability to allow their family, friends, or clients to download their photos. Since the launch, however, we have seen it used for academic and non-profit purposes too, so we plan on expanding it this year by adding more licenses and the ability to license entire stories (including written content) and not just the individual photos. Our non-profit customers have expressed how helpful this would be to share their cause.

VH: Does Exposure educate users on this open licensing option or advertise it in any way?

The photo downloads feature is advertised as a paid feature because there is an infrastructure cost associated with allowing photos to be downloaded. When the feature is enabled by the member, we give a full legal description of how the license works and also a “basic” description in simpler terms. When a visitor downloads any photo that is under the open license they also see a similar dialog and download agreement that indicates the requirements of the license, including attribution to the photographer/source. This way, they know how and where they can use the photo before they actually download it.

Exposure Screenshot of Download AgreementAn example of Exposure’s Download Agreement and use of CC BY-ND. Source: “The Space People” by Victoria Heath (CC BY-ND).

VH: Taking a step back from open licensing, can you share with us one or two of the most impactful stories that have been shared on your platform?

That’s a tough one, as there have been thousands over the years, but right now I’m extra proud to host and share stories on climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, this story from Doctors without Borders (MSF) which shares the struggle to get the supplies needed to fight COVID-19 in Yemen; this piece by the United Nations Development Programme’s Climate Office telling the story of climate-resilient farming and food security in the outer islands of Kiribati; and this story of Black Lives Matter protests in Cobb County, Georgia by a local photographer.  

VH: The goal of the open movement is to build a more equitable, inclusive, and innovative world through sharing—do you believe sharing photography, and creative content more broadly, has a role in achieving that goal?

Openly sharing information has always happened within communities. I strongly believe the open movement has achieved great things since the first few days of ARPANET and the birth of the modern internet. Creative content still has room to mature to be a truly accessible, inclusive, and equitable medium as more people get access to the internet. But as a whole, visual content has had a huge impact by engaging most of the world—now more than any other time in history. There are things that worry me about our ability to achieve any sort of “open web” goal, these include the consolidated power of “Big Tech,” eroding net neutrality, and the disparity of access to reliable and affordable (if not free) internet connections—as recently seen with the impact of COVID-19 on students without a reliable internet connection at home.

VH: Photography as a profession has suffered from a lack of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity which has led to a mirrored lack of diversity in the images created (e.g. stock photos). What actions do you think individual photographers like yourself, and platforms like Exposure, can take to help increase diversity in the industry?

A quote mentioned in Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist has recently been very impactful in my thinking about just this. The quote is credited to Harry A. Blackmun from the 1978 Supreme Court case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Blackmun wrote, “…in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently.”

There is no progress without change and the status quo of taking a neutral stance does not allow for oppressed voices to be heard.

When I think about how this could be implemented in photography and the platforms that support it, I see several paths to a more equitable community: actively raising, promoting, and empowering the work of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and gender diverse photographers; giving resources to those same communities to enhance their ability to work, and; public platforms taking a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech and racism of any kind. There is no progress without change and the status quo of taking a neutral stance does not allow for oppressed voices to be heard. Exposure, as a platform, can do more on all these fronts, but the future looks bright for more giving and more empowering initiatives. Our Black Lives Matter support statement outlines what we are doing right now, and there is more to come in the future. 

VH: Luke, thank you for speaking with me! By the way, there are a growing number of openly licensed collections that are working to increase diversity in stock photography. These include Nappy, the Gender Spectrum Collection, Disabled and Here Collection, and Women in Tech. Check them out!

?: Featured image by Kollage Kid, titled “Lighthouse” and licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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