Open Publication on Silk Road Seattle?

In a recent post to Sogdian-L, John Hill announced the on-line availability of the first draft of his annotated translation of the Weilue, a 3rd century CE Chinese text that, among other things, preserves unique information about maritime routes to the Roman Empire. Like his earlier translation, The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu (now in a second edition, 2003), Hill offers his translation freely to all:

You are most welcome to download it or use it as you wish.

Most of the other texts available in the Historical Texts section of the Silk Road site are e-prints of out-of-copyright editions (sometimes updated or annotated), with the exception of Nicholas Sims-Williams’ translation of certain ancient Sogdian letters. Some of these texts bear copyright statements. The site as a whole makes copyright claims on behalf of itself and/or the individual authors, permitting “non-profit educational use” and web-linking, but prohibiting download or copying “of materials for re-distribution and in particular for any profit-generating enterprise.” No formal document license is invoked.

To what degree can such a ‘do-it-yourself’ approach to copyright and licensing terminology, which at present we also follow at the Ancient World Mapping Center, be seen to be adequate on the net? In light of the relative ease of this approach, what are the benefits and advantages (or pitfalls?) of employing a formal, ‘open’ license endorsed by one or another scholarly or ‘open’ publication bodies?

About Tom Elliott

Associate Director for Digital Programs and Senior Research Scholar, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University
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