BILETA Conference 2014, UEA

by Paul Maharg on 15/04/2014

Am liveblogging the BILETA 2014 conference at the University of East Anglia.  I missed last year’s Liverpool conference, so it’s great to be here amongst BILETA colleagues again.  Multiple streams, so can only provide a snapshot of some.  Am in the IP stream, and first up, Chen Wei Zhu, from Edinburgh’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, on digital humanities, and his paper was entitled ‘Building a Relational Contract for Digital Scholarship: How should a Three-Century old Copyright Law Respond to the Development of Digital Humanities?’  He defined digital humanities first (dig hum), citing the origins in humanities computing.  Dig hum grew in the shadow of humanities computing; and he went on to analyse the mischief, or one of them, in the Statute of Anne (1710).  He quickly made the case for relational contract theory to be applied to data curation — Maclean, Macauley, etc.  I’m writing on this issue re accreditation and regulation so was interested in this — wanted to hear more…

Next up, Burkhard Schafer from Edinburgh’s SCRIPT, on ‘Copyright implications of assistive technologies for mental health patients’.  He talked about two technologies — SenseCam, a camera that is worn, with software to process the images, could be worn by humans or animals.  It allows re-experiencing of segments of life: images can be captured at a rate of  2 per second, currently 4,000 images a day, processed according to situation factors such as change of light, etc.  Sort of an events chain or film, searchable with metadata attached.  Useful for Alzheimer’s sufferers, since this provides neurological feedback.  Data protection implications are obvious.  Copyright?  Considerable issues for galleries, theatres, films, public buildings, eg Panoramafreiheit Christo Entscheidung).

Or tinnitus.  Burkhard played tracks from tinnitracks.com that blocks or screens out frequencies in music.  Re permissions (which were really problematic for the developers), it’s interestingly like the problem of digitally simplifying syntax.  He quoted Andy Clark’s theory of extended mind — that we are what we are because the environment is constantly stimulating us, cognitively.  Eg principle of parity: ‘if, as we confront some task, a part of the word functions as a process which, were it to go on in the head, we would have no hesitation in accepting as part of the cognitive process, then that part of the world is (for that time) part of the cognitive process’ (Clark & Chalmers)  What about copyright in this process?  Should this be an exception?  At questions, James Griffin pointed out that this was related to reverse engineering — and reverse engineering as a right rather than as a defence.  Very interesting paper, giving rise to questions about US approach to fair use, problems of categorisation, etc.

Next, Victoria Stobo (archivist, CREATe, Glasgow University) on copyright, risk and cultural heritage.  In particular, orphan works schemes,  and the reality of clearing rights and the costs of doing so for archives, libraries etc involved in digitisation.  Her figures showed massive costs for the activities.  Eg a full-time archivist might do nothing but diligent search between 250-440 in a year.  She questioned whether licensing is effective, citing Favele et al on copyright.  She outlined the archivist’s professional standards — eg Universal Declaration (2010).  Also cited as a useful project the Wellcome Institute’s Codebreakers Project, a mass digitisation pilot project on genetics images.  Wellcome put orphan works and works with permissions online, after a suitable period.  In conclusion she advised training and support for the cultural heritage sector on sensible risk taking, and the opportunities to develop niche toolkits to support particular kins of collections, eg film, photography.  More here.

Finally, Libor Kyncl from Masaryk University, Brno, on ‘Free database licensing in the public sector’.  He described the situation in the Czech Republic.  He focused on the  market for PSI, public sector information, ie data created by public bodies, or on behalf of public bodies (by third parties); map data, companies data, land register, transportation, medical care, cultural data.  Cited EU directives.  For databases, the licences of open data commons (Public Domain Dedication & Licence); open data commons attribution clicense; open data commons open database license.  For content, database constants license, CC attribution license, CC Zero, and Open Government License (UK).  He summarised some examples of open data projects.  In the Czech Republic there seems to be a problem setting up open data PSI projects.  There are plans: Commercial Register, Insolvency Register, Open Government Partnership (CZ joined in 2011) and the Open Data Forum established in Prague 2013.  Benefits of free licences?  non-exclusive, lower legal services costs, larger publicity and dissemination, allowing to publish re-used PSI, added value without public costs, no discrimination.  Caveats?  Little motivation of public bodies to use them; current regulation in the CZ Republic does not contain different regulation for PSI access and reuse; the Amendment directive 2013/37/EU has not been implemented in the Act yet (as of 1.4.14). There are other problems — eg Ministry of Interior is not a trustworthy independent supervisor in this area.  And the final supervisor in the admin juridical procedure is the Supreme Admin Court, which does not have direct jurisdiction, only cassation jurisdiction.

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