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Old 11-29-2009, 12:39 PM   #1
Nate the great
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5,000 documents by American Founding Fathers now available online

The University of Virginia Press has started a new open access publication called Founders Early Access. It contains 5 thousand previously unavailable documents concerning James Madison and John Adams. I've looked through the list, and it's mostly letters to and from the principles.

UVA's other digital records require fees ranging from $200 to $7300 to access, and UVA is requiring a license agreement. They're actually trying to claim copyright on works written 200+ years ago. How ridiculous.
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Old 11-29-2009, 12:43 PM   #2
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Are they claiming copyright? Anyone is perfectly entitled to put public domain documents on their own server and then charge for access to them - there's absolutely nothing wrong in doing that, especially if it cost a great deal of money to set up the site.
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Old 11-29-2009, 01:08 PM   #3
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Are they claiming copyright? Anyone is perfectly entitled to put public domain documents on their own server and then charge for access to them - there's absolutely nothing wrong in doing that, especially if it cost a great deal of money to set up the site.
It's in the license, yes.
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Old 11-29-2009, 01:12 PM   #4
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Thanks, Nate!
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Old 11-29-2009, 02:38 PM   #5
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Keep in mind these are "early versions" of documents that will be cleaned up for publication: "Early Access offers readers a backstage pass to a phase of the documentary editing process never before available." I.e. they grant full access to early versions, and remove it from the Early Access site (and move it into the "Rotunda" service, http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/) when it's ready for publication.

I'm not clear on copyright as it relates to this situation, since we're dealing with unpublished works held by a private collection that are apparently revised, proofread and edited. Even if they can't copyright it, they certainly can restrict and charge for access to Rotunda, though if the works are not actually copyrightable they couldn't stop you from subsequent uses and distribution.
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Old 11-29-2009, 04:03 PM   #6
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I think a lot of people confuse copyright with a money making scheme. They could charge some kind of small fee to access the materials in an online format on their servers, but attempting to stamp their copyright all over it is simply ridiculous.
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Old 11-29-2009, 08:37 PM   #7
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I think a lot of people confuse copyright with a money making scheme. They could charge some kind of small fee to access the materials in an online format on their servers, but attempting to stamp their copyright all over it is simply ridiculous.
They can't copywrite the original work, but can't they copywrite the editorial work?
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Old 11-30-2009, 12:11 AM   #8
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I'm with Nate the Great. I think this is despicable.

Museums and libraries were supposed to have a mission of providing books, art, and cultural heritage to the public. It is really too bad that you can't go onto the internet and go to the Louvre.com or MetropolitanMuseumOfArt.com and see detailed images of all the artwork. But instead of providing access to this material they are trying to be the gatekeeper to cultural treasures, and trying to find ways to enrich themselves even at the expense of restricting the publics access to the material they are supposed to preserve.

There are several books in the British Library Sloane Collection I'd love to see. I know they are available in microfilm from Adam Matthew Publications, but they aren't available online, and they are prohibitively expensive. Now I can understand if a rich collector charged exhorbarant rates for access, but it really pisses me off to see governments, public museums, and public libraries doing it. Even worse is when they want you to sign some licensing agreement that requires you to recognize their "copyright" and prevents you from disseminating what is obviously work in the public domain. The same applies to public universities that pull this crap -- like the Early English Books Online (EEBO) at the University of Michigan. (I wonder what would happen if you sent them a Freedom of Information request for a digital copy of William Caxton's illustrated Aesop's Fables).

When a public entity has a work in the public domain and prevents access to that work then I view it as theft. I hope I'm not being overly dramatic, but this really does piss me off.
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Old 11-30-2009, 12:47 AM   #9
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Instead of providing access to this material they are trying to be the gatekeeper to cultural treasures, and trying to find ways to enrich themselves even at the expense of restricting the publics access to the material they are supposed to preserve.... It really pisses me off to see governments, public museums, and public libraries doing it.
Erm.... I seriously doubt this is a profit center for UVA, and museums are non-profits that lose money on a regular basis. Plus, many government institutions don't charge at all, e.g. the British Museum, and almost all the Smithsonian museums, have free admission.

Scholarship, preservation of the original materials, digitization, and providing electronic access isn't free, and it doesn't cost a university or government institution any less to do it than a private individual.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Daithi
When a public entity has a work in the public domain and prevents access to that work then I view it as theft. I hope I'm not being overly dramatic, but this really does piss me off.
Yes, you're being "overly dramatic." They might not have a case for copyright (but they might, again I'm not familiar with copyright laws as it pertains to unpublished but edited works, or what exactly they are copyrighting), but they certainly have the right to manage and charge for access.
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