Archive for the ‘Legal’ Category

Legalities

March 23, 2006

This was a post-lunch crash course in Intellectual Property Rights, Copyright, Digital Rights Management, Freedom of Information Act, Data Protection Act and Legal Deposit. No depth but some useful highlights and another interesting case study from the ADS concering the mis-use of images and how they dealt with it.

Basically, the ADS received a collection of data, including images, from the excavation of Christ Church, Spitalfields. The images in this very interestining collection show the remains of bodies buried in the 18th century crypt. These images were found by a web site for necrophilia enthusiasts and some images were copied from the ADS site and republished on the sex-with-dead fan site. They also provided a link through to the ADS for enthusiasts to grab more images for themselves.

This was their mistake, because the ADS noticed an unexpected spike in the use of its website and traced it back to the link from the other website. It was the first time they’d had to deal with the mis-use of their digital collections and sought advice from the JISC legal team. They were advised a six-point plan spread over 70 days. The first was simply to contact the website, tell them they had broken the licence they agreed to on the ADS website and that they take the images down or else face further legal action. And they did take them down. End of story.

This was a satisfactory result for the ADS because despite the mis-use of the images, it would have been a long and difficult legal process had the web site not taken them down.

We’ve been thinking about such things for ADAM and intend to introduce a ‘handshake’ agreement prior to the download of ADAM images. Having seen how the ADS handle this ‘contract’ with its users, I’m now inclined to just have users agree to a licence when they first enter an ADAM session rather than each time they click to download. Legally it would appear to cover us. Our present system is based on authentication into the AI Intranet and then trusting that the AI staff member will respect the terms and conditions that are displayed with each image, but we think we can do better than this with little inconvenience to users. There will also be more changes to the way ADAM handles rights management and licence agreements.

The main piece of advice that the ADS gave from this example was that archives should not wait for the abuse of their content before forming a response but rather formulate a strategy for dealing with a potential incident so we can react quickly, methodically and legally. Wayne, Claire and Tim will know more about whether we’ve had to deal with this already. I’m not aware of such a strategy being in place though. In late May, an IPR expert from the Open University will be giving a one-day workshop on IPR issues for AI staff, something we intend to run each year. Having spent just an hour touching on such issues, I feel a day’s course would be well spent ensuring IS staff are informed of the risks and responsibilities involved in this area of our work. Not least because the European Copyright Directive, which applies to the UK, now makes breaking copyright protection a criminal offense rather than a civil offense, so theoretically someone could go to jail whereas it used to be that the individual/organisation would be fined based on the ‘loss’ (financial, of reputation, of relationships, etc) to the rights owner.