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Ancient Books Go Online

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the on-the-internet-no-one-knows-you're-a-clay-tablet dept.

Books 198

jd writes "The BBC is reporting that the United Nations' World Digital Library has gone online with an initial offering of 1,200 ancient manuscripts, parchments and documents. To no great surprise, Europe comes in first with 380 items. South America comes in second with 320, with a very distant third place being given to the Middle East at a paltry 157 texts. This is only the initial round, so the leader board can be expected to change. There are, for example, a lot of Sumerian and Babylonian tablets, many of which are already online elsewhere. Astonishingly, the collection is covered by numerous copyright laws, according to the legal page. Use of material from a given country is subject to whatever restrictions that country places, in addition to any local and international copyright laws. With some of the contributions being over 8,000 years old, this has to be the longest copyright extension ever offered. There is nothing on whether the original artists get royalties, however."

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Sounds about right (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27671545)

Copyright seems to have an indefinite life these days...

Re:Sounds about right (1)

pmarini (989354) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671825)

In any case:
- The website is publicly available, much like a museum
- I am browsing it from my private property and have a legally purchased camera with me
- Journalists can take pictures of anything they see, so why shouldn't I (not sure if a screenshot would pass the same test)
- [...takes pictures of computer monitor with pages of ancient book]
- There's nothing in the copyright laws that prevents this, or are you saying that the Library asked the original author for permission?
(Same goes for the publisher's copyright - extinct - and the owner of the physical copy cannot claim any copyright whatsoever on the content, otherwise heck I could claim royalties on Susan Boyle's performance because it's playing in my TV set...)
Think of it as going to Le Louvre for a picture of Tintoretto on display.

Re:Sounds about right (4, Funny)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671883)

Most of the publishers' nations are also extinct. Lawyers, though, I can't vouch for. Demons have very long lifespans.

Re:Sounds about right (2, Insightful)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672003)

Perhaps the people who digitized or translated the works can copyright the 'new' work that they have 'created'.

Re:Sounds about right (4, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672091)

Translations are not new works, which is why copyright notices in books specifically state that translations are not permitted. They're covered by the original copyright.

Digitizations are an interesting problem. Photographs of a person, a landscape, or something similar, is a creative work. The conditions can never be reproduced exactly and never occurred before, and thus the work is of something new.

A digitized rendering of something, however, is an exact (as near as makes no odds, if done right) duplicate. A second digitization will be indistinguishable from a copy made of the first digitization. There is therefore no identifiable, unique, moment of creation. If there's no moment of creation, there is little need for a creator. (Apologies to Stephen Hawking for paraphrasing him here.)

Most digital collections can be covered by copyright as databases, as indeed can any structured, organized set of data. This data, as it stands, is not obviously structured. The geographic attribute is assigned by the donor, so what was there for this library to organize?

No doubt someone who is a lawyer in this field can answer that particular question, but I just can't see anything that is obviously new, unique, non-obvious and provided by the collection that is not otherwise present.

Re:Sounds about right (1)

pbhj (607776) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672543)

I think the test is whether the reproduction is a slavish reproduction or if some technique, some art, is needed in the reproduction.

For example a mere photo of the Mona Lisa wouldn't be a new work. A high definition scan using specially designed hardware that picks up details not otherwise visible could be a protectable work.

No, I don't think that's just.

From the UKIPO website ( http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/copy/c-applies/c-original.htm [ipo.gov.uk] )
'The term "original" also involves a test of substantiality - literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works will not be original if there has not been sufficient skill and labour expended in their creation. But, sometimes significant investment of resources without significant intellectual input can still count as sufficient skill and labour.'

Re:Sounds about right (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 5 years ago | (#27673023)

I'd think if they were discovered in the 20th century or later, that the person discovering them would hold the copyright of the images. That's where archeology gets a little crazy, particularly in Europe. Copyright on things like the Mona Lisa, or Eiffel Tower are "perpetually" held, even though they were created and "discovered" during "modern" copyright terms. Nations of Europe like to give their museums exclusive rights to things...Like the Crown of England still has copyright on the King James translation of the Bible.

Re:Sounds about right (4, Insightful)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672773)

Wrong. Translations are new works, and translations are covered by copyright. Derivative works, surely, but new and copyrightable works nonetheless. It's a situation not very dissimilar to a fork of a software project: the original author retains certain rights, and can stop the fork if it's unlicensed, but s/he doesn't get the full copyright to the fork.

Re:Sounds about right (2, Informative)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672793)

A digitized rendering of something, however, is an exact (as near as makes no odds, if done right) duplicate.

But doing it right isn't trivial.

Re:Sounds about right (4, Interesting)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672363)

What's wrong with copyright for something like this?

I work for a (sort-of) museum, and it has lots of images like this -- pictures of objects in the collection. A lot of time and money is spent making these images, and some money is made by selling them (e.g. in a book, or licensing the photographs for use by other people). If there was no copyright it would be more difficult for us to pay for making the images.

However, that doesn't mean the photographs need to be copyrighted for 70 years or more.

Re:Sounds about right (1)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672869)

Reviewing what I said, I'm not sure that I explicitly stated that there was anything necessarily 'wrong' with it at all. My own inclination is generally to open source things or put a CC on them. I do however have a trademark on my business name.
If I'd spent some weeks, months or years photographing and otherwise cataloging books etc, I'd probably want to at least make my costs back. The only concern could be if the terms of the copyright stifled someone else' research.

Re:Sounds about right (1)

pmarini (989354) | more than 5 years ago | (#27673159)

My point is exactly that: if the museum can take a picture of it and have the copyright on the new digitised image as derivative work, why can't I too, if I have access to the original via the museum?
The museum surely doesn't hold the copyright to the original art, so why should I ask permission to photograph it?

customs data (-1, Offtopic)

caligulazhang (1530899) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672195)

We provide include: North America (NAFTA), South American countries, the EU 27 countries, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Russia and other 248 countries and regions in a variety of Customs bill of lading data, import and export trade (Statistics) data. http://www.customs-data.com.cn/ [customs-data.com.cn] Competitive Intelligence Global Trade System (GT) data contains a large number of buyers and sellers information such as number of transactions prices, both absolute quality so far on any channel (for example, B2B, event, etc.) suppliers and buyers to study the information and products in the the positioning of the global market to provide authoritative and accurate data and reports! http://www.customs-data.com.cn/BUFFALO-NIAGARA-FALLS-NY/ [customs-data.com.cn]

Re:Sounds about right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27672057)

- The website is publicly available, much like a museum

- I am browsing it from my private property and have a legally purchased camera with me

- Journalists can take pictures of anything they see, so why shouldn't I (not sure if a screenshot would pass the same test)

- [...takes pictures of computer monitor with pages of ancient book]

- There's nothing in the copyright laws that prevents this

By that logic, no picture put to internet would ever have a copyright remaining. Nor would any audio recording as journalists' rights don't apply only to pictures. And hell, copying a whole movie from a DVD is only a series of screenshots...

IANAL but I feel certain to say that your way of thought wouldn't hold in court (and despite me being member of the pirate party, even I don't think it should)

or are you saying that the Library asked the original author for permission?

I don't know about you, but at least here in Finland (and in Sweden) copyright laws specifically mention libraries as an exception to the copyright laws. I would assume the same is true for other countries too.

Re:Sounds about right (1)

pmarini (989354) | more than 5 years ago | (#27673249)

You are missing the point, it being the fact that the original items we are discussing here are not copyrighted anymore, which is not the case in your example, where the pictures that someone has put on the Web would be free to copy after 75 years (depending on the country) - provided they are the originals.
This specific Library says in the legal disclaimer to contact the "partners" as they are the owner of the digitised images, while the Library itself simply has ownership of the physical book, not its content.
In my opinion it's just another way of squeezing more money out:
1) Lock the original artwork under big chains when its copyright is extinct
2) Make a digitised copy of whatever form - which falls under a new copyright term
3) ...
4) Profit

Re:Sounds about right (1)

boaworm (180781) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672093)

In any case:
- Journalists can take pictures of anything they see, so why shouldn't I (not sure if a screenshot would pass the same test)

The freedom of press would include you as well, as long as you are using the pictures for journalistic purposes, ie publishing them in a journalistic (news)paper or something similar.

If you try to take a picture of, say Bill Gates, you are allowed to do so. What mattes then is what you do with the picture. Keep it for yourself? Fine. Give it to your friends? Fine. Sell it to a newspaper? Fine. Sell it on ebay? NOT Fine.

Same goes for certain buildings that are being "copyrighted". The Eiffel tower for instance, you are allowed to take pictures of it in daytime and sell them for whatever purpose you want. But the light show during night time is copyrighted, and you are no longer allowed to sell it, make posters out of your picture and sell it, etc.

Basically, you can do whatever you want, as far as you are not making money out of it. Unless you are a journalist, then you can do even a little more.

Re:Sounds about right (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672153)

Not entirely true. In the U.S. at any rate, if you take a picture of Bill Gates walking down the street, in full view of the public, he has no right to your picture. Anything in public, for that matter, is fair game. And you can sell, or license, or do whatever the hell you want with it.

Re:Sounds about right (4, Interesting)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672939)

Not quite. For journalistic or fine art purposes, you are correct, but if you want to use that picture for advertising, you would need a model release signed by the model, in that case Bill Gates.

Re:Sounds about right (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 5 years ago | (#27673295)

"Journalists can take pictures of anything they see"

Journalists are subject to the same restrictions on copying as anyone else. If they reproduce something that's protected by copyright, they need to justify it as a "fair use" of the material.

Re:Sounds about right (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27673079)

Why aren't there any documents from AFRICA, I wonder...

Could it be that the blacks NEVER INVENTED A WRITTEN LANGUAGE?

Say it ain't so!
"We're all the same"...

Copyright (5, Insightful)

Seriousity (1441391) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671557)

With some of the contributions being over 8,000 years old, this has to be the longest copyright extension ever offered.

Is anyone surprised at this? Seriously, does copyright ever end these days?

Re:Copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27671615)

According to some it certainly does -- one day before forever.

Re:Copyright (2, Informative)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671683)

With some of the contributions being over 8,000 years old, this has to be the longest copyright extension ever offered.

Is anyone surprised at this? Seriously, does copyright ever end these days?

Pretty much the entire content of the site appears to consist of photographs (or facsimiles, if you prefer; I don't know the details of how the images were copied). Somehow I doubt the photographs were taken 8000 years ago.

If you were to transcribe the text of The Precious Book on Noteworthy Dates by Husayn bin Zayd bin 'Ali al-Jahhaf, written in the 10th century, you won't be infringing anyone's copyright. However, if you reproduce the images ... beware.

Re:Copyright (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671727)

Sounds like a job for... OCR!!!

Re:Copyright (1)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671775)

Sounds like a job for... OCR!!!

Superb idea! I'm not sure how many OCR implementations can reliably handle 17th century Arabic script, mind you ...

(If anyone knows of any, incidentally, they might also know of one that can handle classical, a.k.a. polytonic, Greek -- I'd be very interested in being pointed towards one -- pretty please!)

Re:Copyright (3, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671975)

I don't, but I do know that on one of the digital archaeology mailing lists I'm on, there's been a call-for-papers for research into an OCR implementation that can handle cuneiform and other ancient writing systems.

Re:Copyright (1)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672029)

If anyone knows of any, incidentally, they might also know of one that can handle classical, a.k.a. polytonic, Greek -- I'd be very interested in being pointed towards one -- pretty please

Ditto. That would be a great tool for study!

Re:Copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27672035)

So a public work can never be displayed to the public as a digital image without having the negative connotations of copyright automatically attached to it by douchebag lawyers. Sounds about right.

Re:Copyright (4, Informative)

CowboyBob500 (580695) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671761)

I honestly can't believe that anyone actually thinks that the copyright is on the content of the items. It's pretty obvious that the copyright is on the photographs taken of the items.

Re:Copyright (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27672123)

Photos of uncopyrighted human works are themselves not copyrighted unless the photographer adds his own artistic expression through the angle, composition, lightning, scribbling or whatever the fuck else, at least in my country. You can't just scan it, burn the originals, and be good for another infinity years.

If you get a copyright on a scan/photo of a document, wouldn't you get copyright on a print as well? That would mean that when you print 5000 copies of a book, each one is a separate derivative work with it's own copyright, set from the year of printing.

Re:Copyright (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672161)

The copyright laws of other countries do not necessarily apply in the United States, except as established by treaty. WIPO has no authority there.

Re:Copyright (1)

Seriousity (1441391) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672275)

The copyright laws of other countries do not necessarily apply in the United States, except as established by treaty. WIPO has no authority there.

I live in New Zealand, you insensitive clod!!

Re:Copyright (2, Informative)

pbhj (607776) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672591)

[Amended for scope:] The copyright laws of other countries do not apply in any particular country.

An international treaty is always {{fact}} ratified into law in the host country. Laws of other countries may be upheld by a law drafted in the host country but it is the host countries law that is enforcing it.

If someone can contradict this with evidence I'd be fascinated.

The only example I think might exist would be a religious law?

The USA ratified the Berne Convention in 1980-ish IIRC.

Re:Copyright (1)

Anonymusing (1450747) | more than 5 years ago | (#27673085)

Maybe I'm wrong, but isn't the United States part of WIPO [wipo.int] ? Or is that meaningless?

Re:Copyright (3, Funny)

johannesg (664142) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672295)

With some of the contributions being over 8,000 years old, this has to be the longest copyright extension ever offered.

Is anyone surprised at this? Seriously, does copyright ever end these days?

Of course not. How will the poor authors ever be stimulated to write something ever again if they cannot reap the rewards of their hard labour? Really, won't someone think of the mummy's?

Incidentally, I'm wondering if there is anyone on the planet who is not directly descended from the people who wrote this 8000 years ago. I think I'd like to claim my share of the incoming generated by this now please!

Re:Copyright (4, Funny)

Elky Elk (1179921) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672947)

Exactly. The low number of works produced by dead people is a direct consequence of poorer copyright protections compared to the living.

Re:Copyright (5, Informative)

mike2R (721965) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672485)

I'm wondering if that part of the summary is just a troll. "Astonishingly, the collection is covered by numerous copyright laws, according to the legal page" says the summary. Looking at the only legal page I can find: http://www.wdl.org/en/legal.html [wdl.org] it says:

About Copyright and the Collections

Content found on the WDL Web site is contributed by WDL partners. Copyright questions about partner content should be directed to that partner. When publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in a WDL partner's collections, the researcher has the obligation to determine and satisfy domestic and international copyright law or other use restrictions.

You can find out more information about copyright law in the World Intellectual Property Organization's member states at http://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en/ [wipo.int] .

Maybe I've missed another page or something, but that just seems like a standard bit of CYA, not an attempt to extend copyrights by millennia.

Re:Copyright (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672565)

Author's right does. But hey, 'e's dead. Remember. *Copy*right* is the right of the publisher. The one who wants to give the creator even less. And the one that has no reason to exist in these days, but fights hard for what's left of his life.
^^

Re:Copyright (1)

janwedekind (778872) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672647)

Reminds me of the James Bond movies. Just run a filtering algorithm over the video and slap "Digitally Remastered" on the DVD cover. And suddenly it's © 2009.

repository of copyrighted works? (1)

An anonymous Frank (559486) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671571)

Are they simply making it easier to find out if something is copyrighted?

Re:repository of copyrighted works? (1)

pmarini (989354) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671863)

nope, they "clearly" indicate in their legal disclaimer that the items are copyrighted by "partners" and to direct queries to them, but don't even indicate who they are...

Re:repository of copyrighted works? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27671901)

Only if you read "contributed" as "copyrighted".
In other words, they claim no such thing. What they do claim is that the work might be copyrighted, and it's your responsibility to find out before publishing anything. In the case of the photos they have that are dated 2004, they have a very good point.

Go (2, Funny)

Evelas (1531407) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671575)

Did anyone else see "Ancient Books Go..." and think they'd discovered some ancient Go books?

Re:Go (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671799)

Just a curiosity question: Do you program in Forth much?

Re:Go (1)

Evelas (1531407) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671849)

No, but it looks like quite an interesting language, using RPN. I always have my calculators set to RPN. Definitely going to mess around with it, looks fun.

The rise of social consciousness (4, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671579)

Surprisingly, as time goes by, the amount of ancient material available INCREASES every year. Old texts that are found and discovered are digitized and released to the world, rather than being lost in obscurity, readable by a small handful until the ultimate demise of the original work.

I see this every day.

For example, years back, when I was in High School, I was a big fan of "alternative" music. Bands like Depeche Mode, Erasure, Bauhaus, and others were my meat and potatoes, but being raised in small-town, USA, I had to work like the pretty hard to find stuff to listen to. My specialty was rare concert mixes and exploratory remixes - in many cases, I resigned to dubbing cassettes in order to get my fix.

Today, it's much easier for me to find rare, concert remixes! Many (most?) are available in mere seconds a la YouTube, as well as MP3s by LimeWire! And it seems that with each year, more and more and more obscure stuff is available - from Jerry Lee Lewis concerts to Arlo Guthrie live to early stage mixes of Yaz (then "Yazoo") ...

Why is this so?

Take a look at the Long Tail Economics [wired.com] principle made possible by the network effect of the Internet. This is one of the most insightful articles that exists on the Internet!

Re:The rise of social consciousness (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671667)

Take a look at the Long Tail Economics principle made possible by the network effect of the Internet. This is one of the most insightful articles that exists on the Internet!

Unable to compute. Too many buzzwords. My head is gonna explode!

Re: Ane the fall of Long Tail Theory (1)

JasonB (15304) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671815)

NOTE: The Long Tail theory of economics has been fairly well refuted since the publication of the book...for most industries, at least:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121493784638920147.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Re: Ane the fall of Long Tail Theory (1, Interesting)

iJusten (1198359) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671885)

Isn't the Long Tail theory the idea that you don't need as big percentage of population to support you as before because Internet allows for larger population to be aware of your products? There might only be one person in million who loves your music (and thus even USA would only have around 300 fans), but worldwide it means six million fans (supposing everybody had the same purchasing power) all who know of you thanks to the Internet?

I could see that this system would be largely infeasible for products with large physical dimensions, but for CD's or (even better) totally immaterial goods such as mp3's might well benefit from this sort of thinking.

Now, the question is how do you drum word-of-mouth when none of your fans have ever met each other IRL due to distances..

Re: Ane the fall of Long Tail Theory (1)

windwalkr (883202) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672405)

Surely this logic fails simply because the total amount of money (or time, or interest, or whatever you'd like to measure as a cost) is roughly constant - so for a given product to become more popular, other products must become less popular.

Re: Ane the fall of Long Tail Theory (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672671)

If the total amount of money were constant, then interest rates would have to be zero. In reality, money is created out of thin air every day.

Re: Ane the fall of Long Tail Theory (1)

G-forze (1169271) | more than 5 years ago | (#27673229)

Except you would only have 6000 fans in the entire world since the world's population is 6 billion, not 6 trillion.

Re:The rise of social consciousness (2, Informative)

antic (29198) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671887)

The tip of the tail will change and data (rare songs or live recordings) will slip off the available net unless a couple of organisations start cataloguing every single piece of such information.

Re:The rise of social consciousness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27672001)

Yaz, now reduced to a birth control medication...

Re:The rise of social consciousness (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672335)

Why is this so?

You can thank piracy for that.

Re:The rise of social consciousness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27673117)

I was a big fan of "alternative" music. Bands like Depeche Mode, Erasure, Bauhaus

Depeche Mode and Erasure are alternative now? They were mainstream pop bands with lots of top ten hits, with Vince Clark interviewed in video game magazines (C+VG annual 1985) let alone music magazines.

Re:The rise of social consciousness (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 5 years ago | (#27673211)

perhaps they weren't mainstream in america.

Two Babylonians walk into a bar... (1)

An anonymous Frank (559486) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671589)

In other news, Dane Cook is (yet again) being accused of 'appropriating' material from other comedians!

Sometime in the distant future... (4, Funny)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671609)

Gravestone uncovered by excavations for the new Pan-Continental Bicycle Suspension Bridge Project...

"Here Lies Alfred E. Neuman
Mad as Hell...
Born 1954, Died 2337
Copyright, 1954"

Re:Sometime in the distant future... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27672469)

"Here Lies Alfred E. Neuman
Mad as Hell...
Born 1954, Died 2337
Copyright, 1954"

Patentend, 2015
Ueber Mench, 2048

Re:Sometime in the distant future... (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672623)

I'd be more worried if someone copyrighted my gravestone epitaph in the year I was born. Especially when said epitaph included my year of death.

Re:Sometime in the distant future... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27672983)

Whoosh

no big deal (5, Interesting)

belmolis (702863) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671625)

The bit about copyright on the "legal" page is just boilerplate. All it means is that the presentation of a document on this site doesn't necessarily make it public domain or grant some other license, that the owners of the original document retain whatever rights they have. The copyright laws of individual countries are only valid within that country - you only need to concern yourself with your own country's laws. There are indeed a lot of problems with excessive copyright in the world, but the copyright concerns in the post are much ado about nothing.

Re:no big deal (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27671923)

> The copyright laws of individual countries are only valid within that country - you only need to concern yourself with your own country's laws.

Not *quite* true. Thanks to international treaties, we have to recognize foreign copyrights, though only on terms spelled out in our own laws.

And yes, they probably can get copyrights on the scans, even if the underlying material is public domain. Of course, it *should* only apply to the scan. So if you transcribe the words from whatever text yourself, you might be in the clear (depending on your own local laws).

But please remember that, thanks to the internet, even foreign laws affect us a lot more than they used to. This is especially true if, say, you have your website hosted by some British company, even though you live in America, only to find yourself subject to British libel laws (which are a lot more strict than most other places) ...

Re:no big deal (0)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671971)

And yes, they probably can get copyrights on the scans, even if the underlying material is public domain. Of course, it *should* only apply to the scan. So if you transcribe the words from whatever text yourself, you might be in the clear (depending on your own local laws).

How is scanning of documents different from ripping music from CDs?

Re:no big deal (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672143)

How is scanning of documents different from ripping music from CDs?

The arguments will be similar to those used in photography of artworks. There is a reasonably amount of judgment used in preparation of the document, choosing what kind of light to scan it with, determining the optical resolution for best reproduction, postprocessing to remove scanning artificats, etc. Although in the US, Bridgeman v Corel [wikipedia.org] probably applies to render the copyrights invalid.

Was the racist overtone intended??? (0, Flamebait)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671645)

What the hell is:

To no great surprise, Europe comes in first with 380 items. South America comes in second with 320, with a very distant third place being given to the Middle East at a paltry 157 texts

suppose to mean?

A) That it's no surprise that they haven't been preserved or added to the catalog?

B) That it's no surprise that Middle Eastern culture doesn't have many manuscripts?

I hope/expect it's the first, because if it's the second the ignorance and rascism displayed is abominable for slashdot. Either way it shouldn't be so ambiguous? Where are the editors??? Out to lunch with Cmdr Taco?

Re:Was the racist overtone intended??? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27671673)

Racist? What the hell does "race" have to do with it?

If you want to say it's geographically biased and unnecessarily inflammatory in that respect, fine, but geographic regions aren't races and identifying disparities between the contributions to this document collection from different regions so far isn't "racist".

Here's hoping they fill in the ones that are underrepresented a bit, because there are worthwhile contributions that could be made from almost everywhere in the world (although the degree to which ancient cultures used writing or it was preserved is quite variable, and, okay, there won't be any from Antarctica. Hopefully I won't be accused of being an anti-Antarctican "racist").

Re:Was the racist overtone intended??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27671835)

there won't be any from Antarctica.

You racist! Shoggoth pride! Tekeli-li!

Re:Was the racist overtone intended??? (1)

marco.antonio.costa (937534) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672887)

OMGZERS, laughing so hard right now.

Well done. Please let me live now.

Re:Was the racist overtone intended??? (1)

tolan-b (230077) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672685)

Are you sure you know what race means?

race
2â â/reÉs/ S
â"noun
1. a group of persons related by common descent or heredity.
2. a population so related.
3. Anthropology.
a. any of the traditional divisions of humankind, the commonest being the Caucasian, Mongoloid, and Negro, characterized by supposedly distinctive and universal physical characteristics: no longer in technical use.
b. an arbitrary classification of modern humans, sometimes, esp. formerly, based on any or a combination of various physical characteristics, as skin color, facial form, or eye shape, and now frequently based on such genetic markers as blood groups.
c. a human population partially isolated reproductively from other populations, whose members share a greater degree of physical and genetic similarity with one another than with other humans.
4. a group of tribes or peoples forming an ethnic stock: the Slavic race.
5. any people united by common history, language, cultural traits, etc.: the Dutch race.
6. the human race or family; humankind: Nuclear weapons pose a threat to the race.
7. Zoology. a variety; subspecies.
8. a natural kind of living creature: the race of fishes.
9. any group, class, or kind, esp. of persons: Journalists are an interesting race.
10. the characteristic taste or flavor of wine.

See 5.

Re:Was the racist overtone intended??? (0, Troll)

Saysys (976276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671695)

Observing that England is socially bias against the middle east is racist to you? you are the kind of knee-jerk racism-seeker that makes awesome skits like this one impossible today.

http://www.hulu.com/watch/1477/saturday-night-live-word-association [hulu.com]

You think like a ReThuglican Jew (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27671725)

You think like a ReThuglican Jew

Re:Was the racist overtone intended??? (5, Informative)

Hierarch (466609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671767)

Wait, what racist overtone? Just about anyone who's actually on the lookout for older manuscripts knows that there's not a lot of middle eastern content available. It's just a fact. An unfortunate one, to be sure, for historians, but there's no racism. You're being oversensitive.

Europe, on the other hand, has a great deal of published archaeological research. For example, if I want to research medieval knives, I can find a wealth of information on English artifacts. When I tried to find references on Armenian specimens, the only thing I could find was a 3-volume Russian dig report. The situation is endlessly frustrating.

Re:Was the racist overtone intended??? (4, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671957)

Hmm, perhaps GP is overly sensitive but the tone of the summary does seem strange. I am all against holding back the truth for fear of offending someone's racial or (especially) religious sensitivities but I am not in favor of underhanded insults either.

Saying that it is "no surprise" that Europe comes first and Middle East comes last with a "paltry" number of manuscripts is completely unnecessary in this context and can easily be read as insulting to people in Middle East, with racism not far below the surface.

After all, East Asia has 81, Africa 122, North America 133 etc. why single out Middle East with 157, with words like "no surprise" and "paltry"?

Re:Was the racist overtone intended??? (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672697)

After all, East Asia has 81, Africa 122, North America 133 etc. why single out Middle East with 157, with words like "no surprise" and "paltry"?

Probably because it was written by an American who was trying to sound funny by pointing out that the Middle East had produced more documents than the entire continent of North America? By calling that number 'paltry' is implying even more of an insult to the number they produced.

The GP really ought to calm down and not try to deliberately interpret things in the worst possible light.

Re:Was the racist overtone intended??? (1)

elijahu (1421) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672839)

Perhaps I just read it differently, but I think you're projecting "racism" where none was intended.

Internet usage penetration by population is still tends to be larger in countries with Euro-Centric histories. Isn't UNESCO headquarters also in Europe?

My take on the GP's statement was that it is unsurprising that European texts are more largely represented at first in terms of quantity that have been digitized. Would it be "racist" to point out the fact that the WDL was based on work [wdl.org] already started by the [US] Library of Congress (which is probably a bit Euro-heavy).

When looked at in terms of potential for being added to the collection, I would think that the current amount of current Middle Eastern texts is indeed "paltry", and it was correctly pointed out that the percentages should change as the project grows. With the heavy financial contributions [wdl.org] coming from the Middle East, the vast potential for ancient material from both there and from East Asia yet to be digitized, and the internet usage number (especially in E. Asia), I'd think those numbers should be very different before long.

Re:Was the racist overtone intended??? (3, Interesting)

plasticsquirrel (637166) | more than 5 years ago | (#27673277)

East Asian texts tend to be preserved in their respective languages as well, rather than in translations into English and other foreign languages. CBETA [cbeta.org] (Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association), for example, is a freely-available massive collection of over 4400 Buddhist texts in their entirety, many of which are 1500+ year old translations from Sanskrit. Some of these texts are quite massive as well, encyclopedic in scope with thousands of pages. Only a very tiny fraction of these has ever been translated into English, but they are all freely available in Chinese.

Re:Was the racist overtone intended??? (4, Interesting)

ptudor (22537) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671771)

The submitter hopefully says "to no great surprise" as a common way of acknowledging the occidentalizing tendencies of western academic and political traditions, of which the United Nations by virtue of its failed father the League of Nations clearly is. That whole colonization/empire thing that Europe was doing... before America got in the game with Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Philippines, and so on, led to a perspective not of understanding through observation and interaction of the inherent value anything humans do but instead produced a mindset that compared the conquering "civilized, rational" peoples to those "uncivilized barbarians" they have occupied.

But the point whenever someone brings up Edward Said is that up until a generation or two ago any study in any field that even bothered to examine cultures external to their own did so in what amounts to "Our values versus their inability to yet reach a level of sophistication that matches our values" ... consider the title of some college art classes: basic "Art History I+II" that covers egypt, greece, rome, europe after the renaissance, and america after the armory show. Anything else that happened anywhere else at any point in history doesn't matter and gets put in the category "Non-western art."

Perhaps another art example: Many are well aware of simple cave paintings in France. Impressive, yes, but works of deeper magnitude and greater age in South Africa are ignored; similarly, pre-Egyptian Saharan peoples left numerous rock-carvings that predate formal Egyptian art yet they are ignored.

Edward Said's ideas are often cited in the study of religion as it can be difficult for outsiders to truly grasp the object of study in the same way that a practitioner might. The early pioneers in the study of religion just over a century ago were the first to grasp religion could be an object of study but all too clearly display in their writings the bias of a true believer who writes about these curious savages with their peculiar practices that just don't make sense at all when compared with Protestant Christianity.

I digress.
ma'a es salaama.

Re:Was the racist overtone intended??? (4, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671857)

You are correct. There's no shortage of Middle Eastern material already on the Internet ETCSL [ox.ac.uk] , Library of Congress [loc.gov] , CDLI [ucla.edu] all have collections of cuneiform documents from Sumeria, Akkadia and Babylonia. It would have been child's play to collect all of that and add it to the collection.

They might well do so, in future. The standings in the league table are merely the starting point. But, yes, because of who is doing the starting, it IS no surprise that American and British researchers would concentrate on texts closer to home, particularly as there's going to be a national incentive to prioritize home-grown stuff above museum pieces. Especially if *cough* some of the museums would rather not remind people of what they have.

On the other hand, Middle Eastern countries don't have quite the same fascination with massively ancient cultures, many simply don't have the money or the resources (Iraq being a good example), and even when they DO have these, more than a few of the really early writings from the region are, ummm, elsewhere.

Re:Was the racist overtone intended??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27671795)

Exactly, what does the article have against prime numbers?

Re:Was the racist overtone intended??? (2, Informative)

pmarini (989354) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671961)

Simply that the Library in Alexandria burned down at some point (as we all know that "civilisation" began in Mesopotamia) so the number in Middle East would be mch bigger.
I am surprised that there are 2 items for North America dating to pre-1500, and digging a little they are works describing Columbus discovery as-it-happens!
Funny thing is that there are a total of 4 items relating to the subject of Columbus and while two of them are "located" to the place of publication, those two are "located" to NA, but with the descriptive text indicating

It most likely was produced in Basel, Switzerland[...]

and

The first edition of the letter was printed in Spanish, in Barcelona, in April 1493. Within a month, Stephan Plannck published a Latin translation in Rome.

I wouldn't call myself a librarian if I did this kind of mistakes...

Re:Was the racist overtone intended??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27672085)

Well, quit whining about it and go find some ancient documents to catalog.

Re:Was the racist overtone intended??? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672855)

To work out what it's suppose[sic] to mean, you might start by observing that the part about it being no surprise is in a different sentence from the part about the ME.

Conclusion: neither A nor B.

Yes tech.... (4, Insightful)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671701)

To the people tagging this !tech:

The success of technology is intimately tied to the free flow of information. Issues like there are important, because poorly designed restrictions inhibit our ability to make technological progress without spending a huge amount of resources on needless legal bickering.

If 8000-year-old documents are being withheld from the public domain there's a problem. A problem affecting both the richness of our culture and our ability to do science and apply it in the technology sector.

Re:Yes tech.... (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672393)

If 8000-year-old documents are being withheld from the public domain there's a problem.

If 8,000 year old documents are being read it's a sign that we need to rethink hard drives.

Right to Left (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27671765)

I was checking Middle-Eastern texts out, and it was pretty interesting how they got the "first page" of the text to be in fact the page, and the last page is in fact the first page.

Funny, really.

One set of texts in deep need of help (5, Interesting)

F34nor (321515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27671907)

The Sankrt texts that are written on banana leaves in India need to be oiled to prevent them breaking down. Part of the the deal for the caste system was that the Brahmans had to upkeep the texts, unfortunately now they are in a modern society and these text are being lost to decay. The yoga karuna (the instructions of astanga yoga) was "eaten by the ants" according to S.K Patabi Jois.

Re:One set of texts in deep need of help (4, Interesting)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672067)

An interesting question is whether they will survive as long in the digital format as they did in banana leaf format. They might not be eaten by ants, but they can easily disappear in failing hard drives, formats that nobody can read anymore, accidental deletes or perhaps just buried under the mountains and mountains of information with little hope of ever being found again. The primary job of historians 1000 years from now might well be deciphering long forgotten file formats from dusty libraries of ancient hard drives, CDs etc.

Re:One set of texts in deep need of help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27672803)

There's a field called "digital humanities" that is involved in both the creation and assisting the sustainability for this kind of material. If you're curious there are standards and procedures involved such as the Text Encoding Initiative. A couple of example organisations are CCH (the Centre for Computing in the Humanities) at Kings College London, the HRI (Humanities Research Institute) in Sheffield and a handful of others.

A lot of the standards - transcribing and metadata creation - use XML.

A good example is the Archimedes Palimpset project. http://www.archimedespalimpsest.org/.

A larger, more contemporary example is the Old Bailey Online. http://www.oldbaileyonline.org.

Re:One set of texts in deep need of help (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27672873)

Thats why there is something like "format normalization process". A very important part of any long term archiving solution.

Re:One set of texts in deep need of help (1)

esme (17526) | more than 5 years ago | (#27673237)

Just as in ancient times, librarians are working on these problems.

Failing hard drives are only a problem if you foolishly store data on only one drive, or on only one system. Most of the people I know store multiple copies locally, and as many copies remotely as they can. For example, the system I work with every day has data at three main sites: one in my library's server room, one in another place on campus, and a third in another part of the state. Each of these sites has redundant drives, tape backups, etc.

Formats that nobody can read is a larger problem, but mainly for access systems (as opposed to preservation systems). The images most people can use are low res, low quality and in formats that change every few years. When the format changes, you throw them away. The images that are stored long-term are in lossless, open, well-documented formats, like TIFF and PDF.

Accidental deletes can be a problem, depending on who has access to what data. Multiple sites help if there are problems. Rigorous checking of the files periodically (like checking the md5sums), helps find problems too.

There are a lot of people thinking very hard about how to make this stuff last as long as possible. Libraries typically don't have huge budgets, and digitizing and preserving materials is very costly compared to what we usually do. So there's a lot of focus on doing things right the first time, learning from other people's mistakes, etc.

Re: whether the original artists get royalties (1)

neonsignal (890658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672125)

Some of the original artists were royalties.

:-)

Excellent! (4, Funny)

krou (1027572) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672185)

I hear Gozer was very big in Sumeria. Hopefully there's something in these texts to suggest what he's doing in my icebox.

Copyright for a reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27672311)

Why are they copyrighted?

Well, I'd guess its because these texts were probably discovered relatively recently and that the people that found them and decoded them did some important work. Without knowing more I'd guess that the copyright exists in that work, the work of transcribing the texts.

Copyright certainly can't apply to the original work - if you want to go and read the original work and transcribe it yourself nothing to stop you, apart from the key holders to the museum/vault where they are held.

my share of the pay out (1)

pbhj (607776) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672331)

As a descendant of all these authors I claim my cut of the monies due ...

Sweden has allready done this (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27672449)

There is a Swedish company that has done this in Sweden. Their user side technology is based on a really horrible Flash interface, but most public collections of rare manuscripts are available online. I talked with one of their representatives about a year ago and, if I don't remember incorrect, there were about 900 manuscripts already published at different Swedish museum sites and even more in the process of being photographed.

Sweden pillaged Northern and Middle Europe for more then a thousand year (and those parts of Europe pillaged southern Europe and their pillage ended up as our pillage), no other nation ever got much of a chance to pillage Sweden and now our museums have a lot more European manuscripts then the rest of Europe all together, from about any culture that has been writing things down in Europe. The selection is kind of random as the Swedish armies/vikings/pirates preferred books with a lot of gold and jewels (usually removed when the books reached Sweden) or parchment books that could be made into blank books to be used for military book keeping and didn't look much at the actual content. Although there where sometimes standing orders from Swedish scholars what to take and from the Thirty Years' War and forward there where always a large group of scholar expert pillagers accompanying the Swedish army.

Sounds Like A Job For (1)

CyberSlammer (1459173) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672679)

Frozen Caveman Lawyer....

I was thinking about Online MMOS (1)

jlebrech (810586) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672749)

I'm still waiting for Israel Online or Bible Online, 29AD Online (maccabes?). You would have prophet classes similar to druids and the opposing faction could be the romans with centurions :)

English (2, Informative)

hey (83763) | more than 5 years ago | (#27672847)

Quite a few in English...
http://www.wdl.org/en/search/gallery?ql=eng&l=English

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