A step towards synergy between public libraries and the knowledge commons

The signature of a partnership agreement between the French National Library (BnF) Bibliothèque de Nationale de France and Wikimedia France is excellent news. 1400 public domain books in French digitized and OCR-ed in Gallica will be included in WikiSource. Internet users will be able to correct the unavoidable errors of optical character recognition. Gallica will be able to re-use the corrected digital books. Even though the number of books remains limited, it is a remarkable step forward, for which all the people involved should be praised. In practice :

  • By authorizing the placement of the books in WikiSource, BnF permits them to be submitted to the terms of a license permitting all (including commercial) uses, and forbids itself to reproprietarize the corrected versions.
  • By recognizing the importance of the direct contribution by individuals to the maintenance and enrichment of the commons (here the effective accessibility and reusability of the public domain), the agreement installs a long-expected synergy between the action of state libraries and collaborative commons production.

In order to give all its meaning to this agreement, new steps will be necessary:

  • BnF will inevitably have to revise its Gallica license that contains a totally abusive clause submitting the commercial reuse of public domain documents to authorization and payment.
  • One has to hope that the potential collaboration between societal initiatives and governemental action for the digital heritage will be extended. In particular, as the government seems to have chosen a public-private partnership for using the digital heritage funds of the grand emprunt (French stimulus plan), one will have to monitor closely its impact on terms of use. In particular, no restriction to usage (or even worse DRM/technical protection measures) can be imposed on public domain material. The freedom of non-commercial use for orphan works and for “out-of-print” works that publishers do not republish within a short delay after their digitization must be guaranteed.

Waiting for the rest, let’s celebrate this first step.

This post is also available in: French

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email is never shared.Required fields are marked *