First Review for Built on Bones!

So, I spent this week doing a lot of things. One of my favorites was freaking about my photoshopped proximity to lifetime hero author Neil ...

Friday, 3 December 2010

Comments on some stuff i read on the internet.

  I've just read the new piece over at Middle Savegery on the trouble academics face trying to use collections with stern copyright restrictions. MS flags the inherent contradictions between two opposing forces in research, particularly arch and anth where much of the material is human-centred and just about guaranteed to evoke an emotional response in someone, somewhere. On the one hand, there are archives, collections, museums, and private individuals who are firmly invested in the sole proprietorship of the material they  hold: intellectual property is monetarized to fund its holder. These organizations are also frequently acting to protect individual anonymity by limiting access or reproduction rights. However (and this is the point where we all get a little agitated) all of these limitations seem to fly in the face of our missive to make our work accessible. Humanities don't get funded, grants don't get given, and your own relevance as an educator is questioned if you can't demonstrate an active programme of dissemination of your work.

So what I think MS is asking is: how do we reconcile a world of Wikileaks, a world where probably 80 per cent of our students have never paid for an album of music, a world of mash ups and tribute Youtube videos...with the 'owned' world of copyright images and data protection acts? I honestly don't know. I'd actually like to propose an additional question. How much of the restrictions placed on using research materials are based on the host institution's need to capitalize on its assets, and how much is based on our squishy uncomfortable feelings that we are somehow transgressing against people's desire for privacy, anonymity, or (and this is the one I'm interested in) a peaceful eternal repose?

From personal experience, I find that my idea of what might be proprietary and or subject to some degree of sensitivity consistently falls short of what collection managers expect. I've been asked on a number of occasions to take things down or not to use images or footage; I always comply but there remains a sort of disconnect which prevents me from actually anticipating when I have crossed the line. The UK has much more serious data protection laws in effect than the US, where MS writes. We have a considerable onus to avoid  images of human remains in particular, though this is something I have encountered in every country I've worked in.Who knew that a scrap of unidentifiable human skeletal material that looks a bit like salt-water taffy could infringe copyright in a mobile phone photo? Well, I do.

So, someone, let me know. Why can't the Getty keep it's scans, and why can't I take photos of post medieval skeletons?

1 comment:

  1. Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you offer!.. Julian Hoos

    ReplyDelete

Trivia (personal)

archaeologist. dental anthropologist. yes, that's a real thing. Author of Built on Bones, available in February 2017 (UK), May 2017 (USA) from Bloomsbury.

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