Wednesday, April 06, 2011

What is the point of publishing cultural heritage on the web

A rich resource with material about the Dutch cultural heritage published a new website. The "Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed", a Dutch governmental organisation is quite pleased with its new website.

It has reason to be pleased because they bring half a million photos to the web. These are taken in the last sixty years. In addition to this there are drawings and maps of buildings.

The sad thing is that all this material is hidden behind a paywall. When you buy pictures, there is a further restriction because of its licence (cc-by-nc).

This picture of a church in Diever was drawn by C. van Noordt in 1756 and sadly the license is said to be applicable here as well. When you part with your money, you get not even a truly high resolution scan.

While I am happy with the existence of these digitisations, there are issues and missed opportunities:
  • the license prevents cooperation with Wikipedia
  • the claim of a license on material that is in the public domain is copyfraud
  • the low resolution does not lend itself for digital restorations
  • tax money is wasted because the public does not benefit from this public work
The Dutch government makes our cultural heritage available in this way and they provide a substandard product for commercial purposes. They are happy because they make all this material available but because of the license chosen it is not available for use in education. I hope that the Rijksdienst will study the examples of the Library of Congress and closer to home the Tropenmuseum to learn that it can be done differently.

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