On December 6th, the German Federal Archive and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia announced their cooperation in making publicly available 100,000 digitized images under Creative Commons licence (CC-BY-SA) in exchange for linking the photos to Wikipediaâ€™s Persondata. A big step for opening up public content and data.
In September 2007 the German Federal Archive already made 113,000 images available on their own online digital archive. In total the Federal Archives keeps approximately 11 million still pictures, aerial photographs and posters from modern German history. The cooperation with Wikipedia is the next big step for the German Federal Archive in opening up the archive, as the vice president of the German Federal Archive Dr. Angelika Menne-Haritz said during the press conference.
The photos are not of the highest resolution, about 800 pixels on the longest side. But, this is an enormous addition to the commons. According to Wikimedia, the repository of free content images, sound and other multimedia files on Wikipedia, the donation by the German Federal Archive of 100,000 images is the single largest one to Wikimedia Commons so far. This is even more than the archival project Flickr Commons makes available now in cooperation with 16 archival partners around the world.
Click here for the image gallery: http://www.bild.bundesarchiv.de/
Creative Commons License
The images by the German Federal Archive are licensed Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany License (CC-BY-SA). This means that you are free to share and remix the images under the condition that you give attribution and spread this with a similar or compatible license. The Federal Archive can do this because they own sufficient rights on the images to be able to grant this kind of license. To use such a free license for archival material is really exciting. Few archives work with Creative Commons licences. One of the rare examples is the McCord Museum and the Brabants Historisch Informatiecentrum. And, the archival project Flickr Commons works with â€œno known copyright restrictionsâ€.
The other part of the cooperation between the German Federal Archive and Wikipedia is a tool for linking people from a list compiled by the Federal Archive to the German Wikipedia Persondata and to the person authority file of the German National Library. Something German Wikipedia has already been doing since 2005. Around 27% of 100,000 photos is already done. The expectation is that because the cooperation is now public, the tempo will speed up. Moreover, the users will add new information to the images. You can find the To Do list here.
Though projectleader Creative Commons Germany, Markus says that this is only a small revolution for German notions, this could very well set an example for other archives to make their content publicly available and therefore grow bigger. It will be very interesting to see where we can find the photos and in which (rich) context. Because that will make a strong argument for archives to experiment with this.
As part of Images for the Future the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and Knowledgeland are developing Open Images. The aim of this project is to offer online access to a selection of archive material for creative reuse. Reuse includes remixing of archive footage in new videos. Open Images also supports interlinking with other data sources (like Wikipedia), allowing the easy creation of mashups. Access to the content will be based on the Creative Commons model which proposes a middle way to rights management, rather than the extremes of the pure public domain or the reservation of all rights. The ‘open’ nature of the project is underscored by adapting open formats and using open source software. Software resulting from Open Images will also be released under a open source license.
The development of the project started with a kick-off meeting at Knowledgeland in Amsterdam, earlier this month. The aim-of-the-day was to map the (open source) digital video solutions that are available today and to get feedback. Eight experts in the digital video field where invited to this informal brainstorm session. After an introduction of Images for the Future and the Open Images project plan, the invited experts gave inspiring presentations of their current work. At the end of the day there was a general discussion about the project plan and the first steps that ought to be taken.
Please find a report of this day below. Open Images aims to launch a Beta release by the end of the year.
The second panel of the day was opened by two presentations. The first presentation was by Ton Roosendaal from Blender and the second by Jamie king from Steal This Film. Both represented a different way of financing open source and open content projects. These models and other related topics were later discussed in a panel, also attended by Jon Phillips from Creative Commons and Felix Stalder from Open Flows.
Blender is an open source and open content 3d modeling software package that uses a pre-financed model, in which customers can preorder a movie, from which the profits are being used to create the said product. Other ways of income include foundation community, offering documentation as to how to work with the Blender software, fundings and commercial sponsoring. The main goal of the Blender Project is technological innovation. Ton Roosendaal emphasized that open content doesn’t mean that you don’t have to pay for the goods, but rather that it could be used in a free way. That is, to use that content in any way you see fit.
Steal This Film is another open source project, with the emphasis on community based funding. Steal This Film, both part I and II, are a documentary style film using clips from other movies and distributed on the BitTorrent network, using one of the largest trackers. Jamie King claimed that peer-to-peer distribution exceeds all other methods, because it is â€˜…the most significant data transfer in the world’. There are hardly any costs in distributing via peer to peer, neither for the producer nor the consumer. Therefore, itâ€™s the most easy way for a consumer to get a product.
Felix Stalder started of the panel, by acknowledging the models used by Ton Roosendaal and Jamie King and added a third model in using advertisement combined with open source and freely distributed content. This does not mean that all creative industry will be affected, but only one type of business model. This being the traditional consumer-producer model, in which the consumer directly purchases the product from the producer.
After this, the panel moved to the topic of quality, content and distribution. Jamie King stated throughout the panel that quality is not the single most important aspect of your product. Distribution is equally, if not more, important. If only you put it out in an easily obtainable manner, people will be inclined to look at your product. Jon Phillips contributed by claiming that content is equally important, after a discussion on the costs involving peer-to-peer distribution. It must be acknowledged that there are inevitable costs in running networks, he stated. Jamie King quickly responded by saying that this is included in the ADSL-connection fee.
After Peter Kaufman asked him to comment on the current situation of piracy in China, Jon Phillips responded that the illegal sales of pirated material on the black market had diminished and that the focus was now on streaming HD content via broadband. Jamie King referred to Stage 6, a similar initiative but without the advertisement, which went down over a month ago due to bankruptcy. Jon Phillips replied, and said that this initiative could be feasible because of this use of advertisements.
The last major topic that was raised concerned the narrative of the Big Buck Bunny film, just released by Blender. Anthony McCan asked why open source productions can’t steer clear from the use of violence, as violence evokes violence. Ton Roosendaal replied that this was the best way to show the technical abilities capable by the Blender rendering software and that creative freedom in the way these technological abilities are displayed is highly regarded.
With the introduction of internet the traditional business model for spreading information has been challenged. Whereas before the largest part of the efforts and the investments where spent on the distribution side (printing, storing, selling and fulfillment) the internet (aka The Large Copying Machine) has facilitated easy and cheap distribution. Scientific publishers, who traditionally operated in a closed environment where they sold packages of journals and books through an annual license to libraries, are now (often forced by the community) turning their business model upside down. In this model authors are paying for the publication service in exchange for posting in so-called ‘open access‘ journals, where access is free at the point of use (also read Jan Velterop’s blog The Parachute). In this particular case it looks like a suitable business model has been found, as this model takes advantage of the power of the internet and leads to a greater return on investment for authors (visibility) while securing revenues for the service providers (publishers).
The music and film industry are facing similar issues but have yet to find a grip on the situation; the content is more often than not available for free through peer to peer networks therefore a large part of the incentive to go to a shop and buy a cd or film has vanished. As we are digitizing vast amounts of audio-visual cultural heritage we are facing the same questions: what models can be developed that fulfill the need for broad accessibility for the public while securing a solid return on investment for owners of the material (authors, producers, directors, etc).
Some, like Chris Anderson in his soon to be released new bookâ€™ Freeâ€™ build an entire economic theory based on the notion that freeâ€™ will be the leading model for media due to the vanishing marginal costs of distribution via the internet. The new model that rises from the ashes will be a model where the content or service is free, at least for the user. Google of course is a great example of a company that has turned â€˜freeâ€™ to itâ€™s advantage; the service is free to users while advertisers are the paying customers. At the core a beautiful system as the more you use the service the more revenue it generates for the service provider. Keeping the attention of the viewer is key in the â€˜economy of abundanceâ€™, so you better make sure the service you develop is so appealing that users get hooked on it. In fact, if this becomes the case, there may be an opportunity to upsell them from freeloaders to paying customers by adding a an additional layer of services or privileges. This freemium model (term coined by venture capitalist Fred Wilson) has quickly become the leading model for web 2.0 companies like Flicrk and Linkedin. Interesting fact is that the rule of thumb is that the 1% of paying users supports the rest.
The crux of developing business models in this economy of abundance, where content is free, seems to be to tap into values that people are willing to pay for. And those values may not be the same as in the old days where content was king. Kevin Kelly calls them â€˜generativesâ€™:
â€˜â€™A generative value is a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured. A generative thing can not be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfeited, or reproduced. It is generated uniquely, in place, over time. In the digital arena, generative qualities add value to free copies, and therefore are something that can be sold.” Think â€˜trustâ€™ or â€˜personalisationâ€™. In his blog â€˜Better than freeâ€™ Kevin distiguishes eight of them.
So how does this translate to our audiovisual digitization adventure? Will the specific characteristics of cultural heritage lend itself to open content models like advertisements (google just released a beta service of video advertisements: Adsense for Video ), Freemium services or even community supported businessmodels?
We are hosting a workshop on this topic during the Economies of the Commons conference on saturday April 12 2008 in Amsterdam to investigate the options.