The Eduserv Foundation has released a report on the use of Creative Commons, Creative Archive, and other open access licenses in the area of British heritage, ‘Snapshot study on the use of open content licences in the UK cultural heritage sector‘. This report (itself made available under a CC-BY license), which collected data from over 100 institutions, seem to indicate that most institutions make data available online, usually for free, but that many have not considered the implications of using an explicit license for this material.
My own experience backs this up: several times in the last year people have approached me either at the Digital Classicist or the Current Epigraphy weblog asking if we could host a ‘free’ publication for them (some even used the words “public domain” to describe their work). I can’t remember a single case of someone who even knew what I meant when I asked if they had considered using a Creative Commons license, or some other way to make explicit what people could or couldn’t do with their material.
I think it is important to make clear to people why this sort of licensing matters. To select only one argument, making it clear that all users are free to recirculate an online text increases the chance that this text will be picked up and archived, not only by individuals and projects, but by large institutions such as Google, the Internet Archive, and the national and international repositories and libraries that are going to be the custodians of all our publications that do not have print manifestations to help them survive the next server meltdown.
The Eduserv report both rings a note of optimism, as a significant number of good licenses are in use, and reminds us that there is still work to be done raising awareness of the licensing issue. This survey and the ongoing work that will arise from it have their part to play in helping to raise the profile of these issues.
(Seen in Creative Commons blog.)