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Copyright Camp

August 5, 2011

This past week, Meggan and I attended an afternoon-long unconference about copyright called “Copyright Camp”. Unconferences are much less structured than regular conferences, and are typically attendee driven. There are lots of different ways unconferences encourage attendee participation. Copyright Camp’s was pretty informal. About half the time was spent listening to a keynote, and half on breakout sessions. There were several options during the breakout sessions: you could get a primer on copyright, attend discussions on attendee-chosen topics, play a game about open education resources, or talk to experts about options for Creative Commons licenses.

The keynote was from Deb Wyeth about the Brooklyn Museum‘s work on making digital images of their collection available under Creative Commons licenses, and putting them in non-museum websites like Flickr Commons and Wikimedia Commons. Her work was particularly relevant to me, since I’m currently working with similar image collections. And to top it off, we have the same favorite work on copyright for archivists and librarians: Peter Hirtle’s Copyright and Cultural Institutions, which is even available for free as a pdf. Deb also provided a list of other great copyright resources.

I spent the latter half getting some delicious snacks (unfortunately, there were no s’mores) and participating in two of the discussions sections, one was about the future of media ownership and the second was a continuation of concepts from the keynote.

Unconferences are unpredictable. While I had a great time, the more informal parts of the day happened to be very interesting but not as relevant to me at the moment. Still, it was great to hear from other professionals about what they think about copyright and how they tackle it with regard to their collections. The event reminded me of just how important and complicated copyright is, especially for the collections I work with. However, I feel more confident that I have the right knowledge and resources to at least make a start.

Notes from Meggan:
I agree with Anne’s experience at unconferences. While the topics are usually interesting, the discussions as they unfold are not always relevant. At this conference, I was particularly struck during the keynote with Deb Wyeth’s willingness to take risk with copyright. Copyright is a very complicated issue, but Wyeth repeatedly stressed the importance of taking risks, being flexible, documenting appropriate steps, and communicating with patrons and artists about the project and copyright. After the keynote, Wyeth was asked how the culture of the Brooklyn Museum supported this acceptance of risk. Wyeth admitted that not everyone is as on board with the risk factors as she and her team is, but that the museum has a reputation for being leaders and risk-takers among cultural institutions which helps to move a project like hers forward. In the end, copyright exists to promote creativity and creation of new works, and I loved her attitude.

And, speaking of crowd-sourced projects, you can help the Brooklyn Museum geotag old photos with current locations in the “mapBK mysteries” set on Flickr. If you happen to know Brooklyn well, head on over and help them solve a mystery!

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