On 10 February 2022, Belgium celebrated the seventh edition of Public Domain Day in Belgium with a well-stocked online programme and 68 candidate attendants. It welcomed speakers from Creative Commons, the Royal Library of Belgium, MoMu Fashion Museum of Antwerp, KOERS Museum of Cycle Racing, Design Museum Ghent, the Collections of Ghent and meemoo. Wikimedia Belgium also launched its Wikimedian in Residence project, which will help institutions to make their collections accessible on Wikimedia platforms.
Good practices for rights information - Creative Commons
Camille Françoise from Creative Commons came to talk briefly about the good practices that her organisation is focusing on in 2022 – in particular the distinction between CC0 and the Public Domain Mark, which are often confused with each other even though they’re actually different. CC0 is a waiver that allows the work that you own the copyright for to be placed in the public domain. The Public Domain Mark, on the other hand, is neither a licence nor a waiver but a communication tool – it’s a label or tag to indicate that a work is in the public domain. One current poor practice is using CC0 even when the work is no longer protected by copyright. Despite the fact that it’s the institution’s intention to indicate that they want to make the object openly accessible, it constitutes an unjustified claim to rights. In this case, the good practice is to use the Public Domain Mark.
The OpenGLAM showcase is an annual platform for the heritage sector to present their progress in making public domain collections openly available. It’s the ideal moment for them to share how they have made their public domain collections accessible and facilitated their re-use.
Meemoo kicked things off with an update on the uploading of images from the collection from the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent (MSK). In autumn 2021, meemoo welcomed Sofie Van Bever as an Information Management graduate intern from Artevelde University of Applied Sciences to help us make progress in uploading collections – in line with meemoo’s KPI to make all public domain images available in the artinflanders.be images database. The MSK were very positive about this initiative and Sofie took care of preparing the images. However, because the Wikimedia Commons image upload tool, Pattypan, wasn’t working until two days before Public Domain Day, the upload wasn’t completed until February 2022.
This update was also a good opportunity to highlight new features in Wikimedia’s tooling. In addition to the new Pattypan upload tool release, following the implementation of structured metadata – to improve searchability in the image database – the images database has now also had a query (or search) service since February 2022, which you can use to look up 80 million images on Wikimedia Commons using SPARQL queries. Try the query service here. You’ll find several examples by clicking on the ‘examples’ button.
Wikimedia is also choosing to integrate more of its tooling in the OpenRefine data cleaning tool. Over the course of 2022, not only will it become possible to upload structured metadata to images on Wikimedia Commons; you will also be able to upload via OpenRefine – greatly streamlining the whole upload workflow.
As it does every year, the Royal Library of Belgium has delved into its collections to see which makers’ works will find their way to the public domain in 2022. Sébastien Hermans presented a selection of under-catalogued etchings, prints and drawings by three Belgian artists who died in 1951, which have now all been catalogued and digitised in advance of Public Domain Day. Finally, items were created on Wikidata for 69 works, with images uploaded to Wikimedia Commons:
Hermans’ colleague Piet Janssens then showed their selection of 50 under-catalogued tourism guides by Maurice Cosyn. Public Domain Day helped these guides to be catalogued and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons in 2021-2022. The collection consists of 50 covers and 101 maps. These walking routes described by the pioneering Cosyn laid the foundations for modern trails, including several ‘Grote Routepaden’ (Long-Distance Trails). The Wikidata items that represent these guides are now also linked to Wikidata items on existing walking trails.
Following the Royal Library of Belgium, it was the turn of meemoo colleague Ellen Van Keer. She explained how meemoo is updating the process for displaying rights information on artinflanders.be. The reason for revising this policy is that metadata provided for the art and heritage image database often contains inconsistencies. The guiding principles we aim to follow for this are:
‘to be as open as possible’ by avoiding new rights claims on digital surrogates of public domain work, in accordance with the EU Directive and what has actually already been adopted in Belgian jurisdiction;
‘to be as closed as strictly necessary’ where there is a legal basis.
What this means, exactly, is that meemoo is moving away from using CC0 when a Public Domain Mark is more correct. They’re also getting rid of the copyright symbol – to encourage name attribution. When artinflanders.be is contractually obliged to make a work less open, meemoo no longer uses the CC-BY-NC-ND licence (to enforce that no derivatives can be made and that commercial use is not allowed). There is no legal basis that allows the use of this licence for public domain content because there is no copyright. In this case, it is more correct to use the ‘NO COPYRIGHT - CONTRACTUAL RESTRICTIONS’ rights label. If it concerns a three-dimensional piece of work, then copyright does apply for its reproduction under Belgian law, however. Because artinflanders.be contracts often ask for attribution, the best option is currently a CC-BY licence, which requires name attribution of the photographer. In the future, They’re also aiming to work towards:
CC0 for reproductions of 3D works, which legally amounts to the same thing as the public domain;
Public Domain Mark for reproductions of 2D works, where attribution is not enforced but encouraged.
This will ensure that the reproduction also remains a public domain work – made using public money, after all – in the digital realm of the public domain. These changes mean that artinflanders.be will also need to adapt, and photographers’ contracts will also need to be revised. Finally, meemoo also wants to encourage user involvement by creating a support base among their (content) partners.
Following this presentation, meemoo's Bart Magnus gave us a provisional update after one year of the Public Domain Tool. This tool helps to determine the rights status of a collection – thanks to Wikidata – and to share the information on Wikidata. Bart then also explained which projects set up to deal with the backlog of digital collection data will make use of the Public Domain Tool, and which are planned for upload to Wikimedia platforms.
Since European copyright laws reform, it has started to become the norm – at institution and government level – to provide access to reproductions of public domain works without new restrictions. We therefore wanted to focus on strategy and practice in this edition: why and how can you share public domain collections? In the panel discussion, four members of the panel outlined specific initiatives that their organisations are undertaking to actively facilitate the (creative) re-use of their collections.
In the panel discussion, each speaker gave a lightning talk to explain their practice. Sofie Teugels described the Collections of Ghent project, which as well as providing access to collections from five Ghent institutions, is also making efforts to encourage their re-use. The Cultural Data Lab, for example, is a platform for experimentation, knowledge sharing and building a community around the reuse of heritage data. There’s also the ‘Co-creation fund’, which provides financial support for creatives to re-use collection data.
Diethard Vlaeminck from KOERS showed how this Museum of Cycle Racing located in Roeselare is aiming to reach its potentially global audience using digital means. KOERS wants to serve an international audience by offering collections on various platforms and linking to social media. They’re also paying attention to using multiple languages by experimenting with Wikimedia platforms. In addition to their organisation’s website, they also have the serviceKOERS platform, which will ultimately become not just a virtual museum with cycle racing stories, but also a good starting point for researching cycling history and a platform for other collectors. They want to provide access to their own and others’ collections here, and showcase their own and others’ research, as well as stimulating the (creative) re-use of collections.
Dieter Suls from MoMu explained how the fashion museum organised an experimental pattern-a-thon at the end of 2021. Museum collections aren’t always accessible in the ways that specific user groups need. As a fashion museum, however, they want to make their study collection available on Wikimedia platforms together with their fashion thesaurus. This is because designers can’t simply (re-)use reproductions straight away; they need to have template patterns. The museum therefore organised a workshop to create these patterns together with members of their community of (re-)users. The participants then agreed that the patterns could be posted on Wikimedia platforms under a free licence so that they can be (re-)used. This was an experiment within the Citizen Heritage project on citizen science; they are investigating whether this format can also be set up elsewhere.
The panel discussed the following topics and questions:
Restrictions imposed within the context of the coronavirus pandemic were a perfect test to see if the heritage sector is digitally mature. But was the Belgian heritage sector prepared? Was your organisation prepared? Had you already made any efforts previously which you then benefited from?
How do you determine which audiences you want to focus on and how do you find them?
People often speak about the explosion in creativity that providing free access to (public domain) collections will stimulate. Is it naïve to expect that this will happen simply by posting collections online to create a good impression, without actively facilitating it?
Wikimedian in Residence (WiR)
Wikimedia Belgium ended the day by announcing the winners of their annual Wiki Loves Heritage photo competition. This initiative – just like the globally organised Wiki Loves Monuments and Wiki Loves Art (which was organised together meemoo’s predecessor PACKED vzw in 2016) – is a way to increase the visibility of Belgian heritage. Photographers are requested to post their work on Wikimedia Commons under a free licence so it can be freely re-used both on Wikimedia platforms and elsewhere. The globally organised Wiki Loves Monuments will also be organised under this name in the future, following the example set by Wiki Loves Heritage. This will mean that movable, intangible and scenic heritage are also eligible in addition to immovable heritage.
Finally, Wikimedia Belgium presented the Wikimedian in Residence initiative. This involves the Wikimedia Foundation going in search of museums and heritage institutions that would like to employ a Wikipedian – with the help of donations from Friends of Wikimedia Belgium Fund – on one hand to upload content to Wikimedia platforms, and on the other to organise activities to improve the visibility of these digital collections and increase their re-use.