We’re happy to announce that as of today all our online collection documentation is available under a mix of Creative Commons licenses. We’ve been considering this for a long time but the most recent driver was the Wikipedia Backstage tour.
Collection records are now split into two main blocks of text.
The first section is the relatively museum-specific provenance which is now licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial license.
The second section is primarily factual object data and is licensed under a less restrictive Creative Commons Attribution, Share-Alike license.
Just to be very clear, images, except where we have released them to the Commons on Flickr, remain under license. There’s a lot more work to be done there.
So what does this really mean?
Teachers and educators can now do what they want or need to with our collection records and encourage their students to do the same without fear. Some probably did in any case but we know that a fair number asked permissions, others wrongly assumed the worst (that we’d make them fill out forms or pay up), and it is highly likely that schools were charged blanket license fees by collecting agencies at times.
Secondly it means that anyone, commercial or non-commercial can now copy, scrape or harvest our descriptive, temporal and geospatial data, and object dimensions for a wide range of new uses. This could be building a timeline, a map, or a visualisation of our collection mixed with other data. It could be an online publication, a printed text book, or it could be just to improve Wikipedia articles. It can also now be added to Freebase and other online datastores, and incorporated into data services for mobile devices and so much more.
Obviously, we’ll be working to improve programmatic access to this data along the lines of the Brooklyn Museum API, as well as through OAI and other means, but right now we’re permitting you to use your own nouse to get the data, legitimately and with our blessing – as long as you attribute us as the source, and share alike. We figure that a clear license is probably the ground level work that needs to preceded a future API in any case.
Thirdly, we’ve applied an attribution, non-commercial license to object provenance largely to allow broad educational and non-commercial repurposing but not to sanction commercial exploitation of what is usually quite specific material to our Museum (why we collected it etc).
You might be wondering why we didn’t go with a CC-Plus license?
A CC-Plus license was considered but given the specific nature of the content (text) we felt that this added a layer of unnecessary complexity. We may still, in the future, apply a CC- Plus license to images where it will make more sense given we have a commercial unit actively selling photographic reproductions and handling rights and permissions.