German Federal Archive publishes photos on Wikipedia under Creative Commons license

Monday, December 8th, 2008

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 Wikipedia’s Persondata. A big step for opening up public content and data.

The commons

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.

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Photo: Raimond Spekking, Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0.

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/

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Photo: Mitglieder des Deutschen Reichstag, German Federal Archive (1889). Author: Braatz, Julius. Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0.

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 “no known copyright restrictions”.

Persondata

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.

Conclusion

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.