Open GLAM Workshop in Paris Part 2

June 5, 2012 in Events/Workshops

Last Tuesday (29th May 2012) was the second session of the Parisian Open GLAM Workshop series. Our task force composed of legal experts and representatives from French cultural heritage institutions gathered again in order to draft a document addressed to the French Ministry of Culture. Having identified the main problems faced by GLAM institutions interested in opening up their data at the last session, the group decided to present these issues as a single document together with a series of recommendations on how the new government could facilitate the task of opening up the data or content held by GLAM institutions.

Adrienne Alix (Wikimedia France), Lionel Maurel (S.I. Lex)

We identified 5 major fields to work on, namely: lack of proper understanding; legal uncertainty; economic challenges; problem of control; and technical constraints. We subdivided ourselves into 5 groups in order to work out the problems in smaller groups, and identify together the potential line of actions to suggest to the Ministry.

The results are summarized below:

  • Lack of proper understanding: the terminology of “Open Data” is too vague and often not properly understood by those working within GLAM institutions. More informed communication would allow these institutions to better distinguish between “open data” and “open content” and to understand that it is possible to open up data without necessarily also opening up the underlying content. The Ministry should also encourage the development of innovative tools and services to illustrate the advantages of Open Data.
  • Legal uncertainty: there are several laws that might affect the extent to which cultural data and content can be freely disseminated and reused. While the law requires that public data be made publicly available, the law of ‘78 introduces an exception for cultural institutions. Besides, some of the data held by cultural institutions might be subject to data protection law, copyright law, sui-generis rights or other rights such as confidentiality rights. Clearing rights to make sure that GLAM institutions do not incur any form of liability by opening up their data is therefore a difficult task, which could be facilitated by means of a standard form of contract for the transfer of rights. Another important unresolved issue refers to the legal status of digital reproductions, i.e. whether the mere fact of digitizing a work can actually introduce new rights on the digital copy. Given the potential consequences on the digital public domain, we suggest that the law should explicitly stipulates that mere digitization of a public domain work cannot give rise to any proprietary claim on the digital copy.
  • Economic issues: opening up data might require a series of costs to be incurred, e.g. in order to sort out the data that can be made freely available, in order to properly present it in an open and interoperable format, or in order to clear the rights that are vested in it. Several GLAM institutions are wary of releasing their data under an open license that allows for commercial re-use because they are afraid that, by doing so, they will lose their only potential means of compensation. Work should therefore be done to inform these institutions of the economic advantages that can emerge from Open Data, either directly or indirectly by virtue of the positive externalities generated within the eco-system in which they operate.
  • Problems of control: GLAM institutions often feel uncomfortable about losing control over the way in which their data will be subsequently reused, remixed or commercially exploited. They also are worried about the integrity of their data and potential misuses thereof. In order to resolve this issue, we advocate the need for governmental policies more oriented towards the promotion of Open Data initiatives, and we recommend that the institution of specific supervisory authorities helps GLAM institutions throughout the process of opening up their data.
  • Technical constraints: several GLAM institutions are interested in opening up their data but do not know how to proceed about it. Technical aspects can be difficult to cope with for inexperienced people. Implementing or endorsing a standard format and licensing schema for open cultural data might significantly facilitate the task.


Yannick Vernet (AGCCPF PACA), Benjamin (legal expert)

The task force will keep working on this document during the following week, to be publicly released in the middle of June.

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