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March 17, 2008

Hiding Magna Carta on the Web

Magnacarta The BL have made a digitised copy of the Magna Carta available on the Web:

Magna Carta is one of the most celebrated documents in history. Examine the British Library's copy close-up, translate it into English, hear what our curator says about it, and explore a timeline.

So says the introductory blurb.

Well... if it's so "celebrated" and important can someone please explain why the digitised version has been hidden behind a Shockwave viewer that makes it pretty much impossible to do anything other than browse it on the BL's Web site?  Yes, there is a simple version, which does not require a browser plugin, but the copyright statement and complete lack of CC licence (or anything remotely like it) makes it clear that re-use wasn't high on the BL's agenda.

Shame on them.

Come on BL, you can spend our money better then this!


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Agreed! For the British Library Board to claim copyright in a document that's 793 years old -- and therefore centuries out of copyright, in any jurisdiction -- is a blatant abuse of the BL's privileged position and of tax-payers' money.

@Tony I assume that they are claiming copyright in the digitised version rather than the original - something that I guess they are entitled to do under UK law??

But that rather misses the point... which is that if they think they have the necessary rights to claim copyright, then they presumably also have the necessary rights to release under a Creative Commons licence. I can only conclude therefore, that they have made an explicit decision at some point *not* to release it under a CC licence... on the face of it a significant missed opportunity.

Careful now - it would be inconvenient to fall out with the British Library and be banned from their premises on May 8th :-)

Just be thankful that it doesn't require Windows Vista or the Microsoft Silverlight plugin: http://www.bl.uk/ttp2/hiddentreasures.html - now that really is outrageous.

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