Copyright Research Made Easy, One Step Closer to Being a Reality

I’ve been hoping to see something like this built from Stanford’s copyright database and all of the copyright records and research so many of us have done and it’s great to see it in beta!

http://www.worldcat.org/copyrightevidence

While it isn’t as much as I want for the first full release, it’s in beta so it’s nice that they’ve opened it early for us to contribute. In the first full release, I’d like to see it auto-ingest records from Stanford’s copyright database along with any other databases it can (Gutenberg, BMI, the copyright office, anyone) and to then list those records, including what they pull from, with the full record information including status. Then, I’d like to see an easier interface with a “based on all available information” next to a “best current guess” copyright status indicator (and one that could be like the Creative Commons icons), with a link to the available information and the copyright rules that are being applied. This way, people could see how  the rules are used, what rules apply to each text, and what information is and isn’t available. Adding all of this is a ton more work, but it would make the copyright evidence immediately useful for evaluating copyright and for teaching people how to evaluate copyright. Then, I’d also like an official sign on process (and one that uses OpenID) to allow “copyright experts” who are vetted to enter in the definitive information. Google’s Knol is focusing on the value of authoritative, attributed information and every database can benefit from the same.

The service was only announced last month so it’s clearly in the early stages and this isn’t a critique–it’s just that the need is so great that anything that can be automated and established to be interoperable with other data sources and/or with people contributing more effectively is always better.  Eventually, most copyright checks should be easy. To get to that point will take a great deal of work given the issues (different rules for material type, publication status/place, non-standard copyright record formatting), but this should get us another step closer!

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    Update: I assumed that this data had to be openly and freely available because otherwise with a closed system it’s relatively worthless for anyone to work on since it just makes more silo that’s hard to maintain and contributions don’t mean that much, but based on another review I think that may have been overly optimistic. Hopefully the closed silo is also just for the beta, otherwise hopefully OpenLibrary is working on a copyright system the right way.

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