Ankh's pictures from old books raised my interest. Old old pictures/photos of places and people are always fascinating to me. If we were to start building a distributed repositories of old family albums that each members of advogato can choose to contribute as well as to maintain a repository from selected members' contributions, what would be our design issues all around?
My father-in-law has his maternal and paternal grand parents' photos. On the back, his handwriting: Peter died 1919. Maria died 1947. I remember when i was little visiting our 'Ye' village on the outskirt countryside of Shanghai, paintings of our ancestor in the village temple made an impression on me even then.
Those treasures from memory lane is everyone's birth right. How to make copyright & copyleft work for majority/minority's own right on its own lane?
I'm glad you liked the pictures from old books pages. It's not uncommon for people to buy up these old books and tear them apart, selling the individual engravings in frames.
You are also right that copyright is a big issue. it can be really hard to track down the owner of rights to an image: it's not necessarily the owner of copyright of the text, for example, nor even the original publisher, if the image was reproduced by permission.
I try to do research to find when authors and illustrators died; in some cases I haven't been able to find out, but if someone was published pretty much every year over a long period, and then stopped, there's a good chance they either retired or died then. For publications in the US, I can't use images until 90 years after the artist's death; for other countries it's more often 70 or 75 years. I'm in Canada (as is the server), but I'm trying to take the most conservative approach.
What this boils down to for personal pictures is that you need permission of the photographer, and should try and get that in writing when they are still alive.
There are also actually copyright laws about buildings. My reading of the German copyright law says it's OK to reproduce a picture of a building, but not OK to duplicate the building, i.e. you can't build another one just like it without permission. That seems reasonable to me, but I know someone else who reads the corresponding US law as meaning you can't distribute pictures of buildings either, ever, unless the current owner gives permission.
The current trend with copyright is for publishers to own it, not artists or writers. It's not clear to me when such copyrights expire. In all of these fair use rights, copyrights, etc., the term rights means the publisher's rights to make money, not the end user's rights to read and quote from the material. Just as Adobe didn't want you quoting text from any of their ebooks, so the RIAA wants royalties from any music you listen to, and the large book publishers want lending libraries to go away.
The way to fight this is probably a combination of strategies: with activism, with the Creative Commons licences and copyright terms, maybe even in some countries with civil disobedience.
Innovation depends on being able to reuse ideas from the past, and combine them in new ways. How could we have got the wheel if the inventor was forbidden by the Log Cylinder Industry from making Derivative Circular Shapes?
So one problem with archiving the past is to do with intellectual property non-rights. Another is to do with format-rot, particularly for digital stuff (can you still read your grandfather's word processing files from his CP/M Z80-based Magic Wand system?). And another is to do with curatorial authority, and that's the one that I think affects the Advogato community the most, after copyright.
When I publish scanned pictures from old books, I'm making a selection. I don't have time to scan the whole book: Old England has over 2,000 illustrations, and I've scanned 32 of them.
I try and choose ones that look neat, or cool, or gothy (is that a word?), or that I have pictures of in other books so that I can link them together, such as Beaumaris Castle on page 2 of Old England and also in Woodward's History of Wales. I think the Web is more interesting when you have more interconnections.
In making a choice, I am preserving some images, and disseminating them, but not others. I've added links to lists of all the places illustrated, for some of the books, so people can ask me for particular places (no-one ever has, though, possibly because the links aren't prominent enough). But even listing all the images in the tw-volume Old England collection would be a lot of work. For some other books I've taken the approach of scanning pages, and sometimes people sent me transcriptions (or sometimes I transcribed them on a long flight or train-ride!).
It would be interesting to distribute some of this work. For a start, if you have scanned pictures from any of the same books, or of the same places, and the scans are in the public domain, I'm happy to link to them. Non-commercial use only doesn't interest me, because it's too hard to track, and because I do offer a CD-ROM of all the pictures for sale, although more as aconvenience for people on slow links than anything else, it's not exactly a big seller. But placing restrictions on the images seems to me pointless: they are not under anything like GPL because I don't want to stop people from incorporating them into commercial products, games, services, adverts, web sites or whatever. Only the collection as a whole is copyright, because I don't want other people putting up a mirror without updating it, or a faulty mirror.
If the effort of digitisation is distributed, then likely so is the responsibility of choosing which images to scan. And that in a way diminished my responsibility as curator, because I'm making less of a final selection.
sye was talking about photographs of people, too, and there you get an additional benefit of sharing: probably others have pictures of your relatives (or of you!) online too. Maybe they are ones I might not choose to distribute (naked wth whom?) but I am certainly willing to abrogate that decision, to give up any right I might (or might not) have to say what pictures of me are published and where, if the result benefits a much wider community.
Maybe a central (but replicated) registry of people who have given such permission, would be useful?
what would be our design issues all around?
The great prophet Ayn Rand
had pondered over your question decades ago, and this was her answer:
The main design issue is this: the idea that one's machine should be
contributing to the greater good of some arbitrary distributed repository
] is a denial of
the virtue of individualism, and a blatant affront to the basic principle of
the self-evident truth of the inalienable right of human dignity.
To overcome this issue, Fish suggests creating not a
single distributed repository, but several non-distributed
repositories. However, according to Fish, this solution presents
another design issue, namely that since it makes searching more difficult,
it violates an individual's basic right to fast and convenient access to
data. The only way to resolve both design issues simultaneously is to commit
paintings of our ancestor in the village temple made an
impression on me even then.
Those treasures from memory lane is everyone's birth right.
Wrong! Wrong!! Wrong!!! It's everyone's birth right to destroy ancient
treasures because they represent decadent value systems from the past. It's
everyone's birth right to destroy paintings of their ancestors and other
people's ancestors, as such paintings encourage the practice of ancestor
worshipping. Now, ancestor worship is anti-American, anti-individualist,
anti-rationalist, anti-pragmatist, anti-naturalist, and anti-postmodernist.
The idea of ancestor worship, and the idea that one should pay attention to
the so-called "wisdom of the ancients", are irrational values which were
created to maintain the bourgeois status quo of the hierarchical oppression
of the deformative conservatism of the dominant power structure in
It flies right in the face of modern Western libertarianism and liberalism,
which maintain that the individual should be the only source of wisdom and
knowledge, even if heads shall roll and wheels shall be reinvented.
seems to me any optimization must first set up spacial boundaries
projected life span for the boundaries to remain open for all
After the saturation point has been reached, it must comes up with a
political schema to release all its inner workings to its children
relinquish itself to serve only one function: spawning child
and redefine the rate of this replication.
This is, again, very wrong. Like ancestor worship, optimization is an
irrational value which was created to maintain the bourgeois status quo of
the hierarchical oppression of the deformative conservatism of the dominant
power structure in society. The idea of optimization for machines, nay, the
very idea that a machine can do a better job at a task than a human can, or
that a machine should be doing work that can be done by a human, is a
blatant negation of the concept of mankind as a heroic being.. It turns
mankind into dispensable cogwheels, and thus, like the idea of a distributed
repository, is a grave violation of human dignity.