Friday, August 1, 2008

On Not Adding Value, Digital Copyright

While I strive to stay upbeat at my workplace, it is hard to escape the notion that I am adding relatively little value. I can think of others things I could do in the organization that would be better, but I'm stuck in this relatively junior position that fails to take much advantage of my skills and education. One benefit to this situation is that it is encouraging to think more about my skills and what I could do. I think information professionals (archivists, librarians etc) still need to work on overcoming the custodial view (e.g. that librarians are just those who protect/keep an eye on collections) that some have of the profession.

I have also been thinking about copyright again. While I certainly hope that the new proposed Canadian copyright law doesn't emulate American mistakes (e.g. DCMA; for more extensive discussion and critique, see the blog of University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist), I wonder if existing law covers the following problem. Take an item that is public domain and then digitize it and make it available online. Let's also say that the digital surrogate of the item is available in a number of formats, is available in high detail or resolution and has good metadata. Does the organization/person that performs that digitization process earn any copyright or intellectual property rights on the item that was public domain in its original, non-digital form? If so, this could have interesting implications for archives (and libraries, for that matter). I wonder if anybody has considered these questions. It certainly seems relevant to Google's Book scanning project or other efforts of that kind.

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