Monday, February 29, 2016
I have always loved Orson Welles but now I respect him even more for what he is doing in this radio broadcast from 1946.
Friday, February 26, 2016
All swashbuckling pirates (and movie producers) know that if you want to find the treasure buried beneath the elusive X you first need a map. A charred fragment is no good: fortune only comes to those who hold enough pieces to follow the trail.
The National Library of Australia’s Trove service is that map for anyone wanting to navigate the high seas of information abundance. (You don’t even need to be a pirate.)
But our information plundering days may soon be over. Recently announced “efficiency dividends” mean that aspects of the Trove service will be scratched.
The news that Trove will face cuts has led to an outpouring of support on social media, with several thousand tweets using the #fundTrove hashtag.
So what exactly will we lose?
Trove pulls together metadata and content from multiple sources into one platform to make finding what you are looking for an efficient and successful experience.
As of February 25 2016, this includes information on over 374,419,217 books, articles, images, historic newspapers, maps, music, archives, datasets and more, expressing the extraordinarily rich history of Australian culture.
If, as someone interested in museums, I am looking for information on Sir Frederick McCoy, inaugural director of the National Museum of Victoria, a single Trove search reveals not just books and articles.
I’ll find information on archival collections at the State Library of Victoria and the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, biographical entries from the Australian Dictionary of Biography and the Encyclopedia of Australian Science, digital photographs, transcribed newspaper obituaries and images of documents such as a Geological Survey of Victoria map to which McCoy contributed.
Distributed content is available within seconds. The benefits to researchers, local and family historians, and the Australian community as a whole, is immense, resulting in over 70,000 unique visitors a day.
Yet, as The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Monday, staff have been told the federal government’s “efficiency dividend” will have a “grave impact” on the National Library. Aside from inevitable staff cuts,
The library will also cease aggregating content in Trove from museums and universities unless it is fully funded to do so.This is the information equivalent to leaving money, or treasure, on the table.
Making Australia’s existing investment in information resources freely and efficiently available is not just a self-evident public good in terms of equality of access. The democratisation of information has clear benefits for innovation and the Turnbull government’s “ideas boom”.
Trove is a key piece of information infrastructure for many professionals, and this wealth of material isn’t behind a paywall or subscription service. There’s no requirement that users prove they are “bona fide” researchers (whatever that may mean).
It’s accessible to anyone with an internet connection; and the sources it draws on include more than the usual suspects. There’s content from small institutions and large, community collections as well as state-funded libraries, museums and archives.
In a sense Trove has been a revolutionary experience for those of us who rely professionally on access to high-quality information. Once our problem was that there was just too little to go on. Now there’s far too much.
Contrary to the myth of the lone researcher who loves spending hours scouring paper archives and libraries to discover “buried” or “lost” knowledge, humanities research isn’t primarily about the hunt for content. It’s about analysing, processing, interpreting, relating and synthesising useful content that has been found.
By dramatically reducing the time spent on the trail of content, Trove users spend less time hunting for the booty and more time working with the spoils.
Trove not only aggregates content, it provides sophisticated search capability to help narrow down thousands of results. It’s a focal point for the diverse community who help organise, correct and improve the information it contains.
For people and organisations with some coding skills there are also opportunities to harvest and process content via an API (application programming interface) to reveal new ways of looking at our shared heritage.
The Trove platform supports 21st-century innovation and agile practice. As a result, it has become essential and internationally renowned infrastructure for distributed, collaborative and responsive research into Australian society and culture.
As a past manager of Trove, Tim Sherratt, pointed out on Wednesday,
Trove is not going to be suddenly turned off.But its relevance relies on constantly growing the knowledge and content it contains.
If the National Library puts Trove to the sword as a result of the government’s swashbuckling cuts, this innovative stash of content may end up dispersed and buried again, taking Australia off the map. That would definitely leave us poorer, an information desert island in an increasingly interconnected world.
Mike Jones, Consultant Research Archivist, University of Melbourne and Deb Verhoeven, Professor and Chair of Media and Communication, Deakin University
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Friday, July 31, 2015
Australian copyright law is broken, and the Australian Government isn’t moving quickly to fix it.
Borrowing, quoting, and homage are fundamental to the creative process. This is how people are inspired to create. Under Australian law, though, most borrowing is copyright infringement, unless it is licensed or falls within particular, narrow categories.
This year marks five years since the very real consequences of Australia’s restrictive copyright law for Australian artists were made clear in the controversial litigation over Men at Work’s 1981 hit Down Under. The band lost a court case in 2010 that found that the song’s iconic flute riff copied some of the 1934 children’s song Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gumtree.
A new book and documentary tell us more about the story behind the anthem – and the court case. The book, Down Under by Trevor Conomy, and the documentary, You Better Take Cover by Harry Hayes, bring renewed interest and new perspectives on the tragic story.
Why so note-worthy?Kookaburra is a simple, four-bar tune. Men at Work were found liable for copying two of these bars. The Court found that this copying was sufficient to award Larrikin Music Publishing – the current owners of Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gumtree - 5% of Down Under’s royalties from 2002 onwards.
According to Conomy and Hayes, this decision has been heavily criticised by Australian artists. Copyright is designed to promote creativity, but this is a clear case where it punishes artists for drawing from the culture around them. In Hayes' documentary, cartoonist Michael Leunig says:
A quotation or a tribute or a homage if you like, where you quote from the culture you grew up on, is entirely natural and spontaneous and proper. It reinforces and celebrates culture. It’s culture making. And I grew up on that song. I mean at school we sang that song day and night. It just goes into you – it belonged to us all.Crucially, Conomy and Hayes both point out that the people who sued Men at Work didn’t even write Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gumtree. Poet and composer Marion Sinclair penned the song for a Girl Guides competition in 1934, and later assigned her copyright in the work to Larrikin.
The association between the two songs wasn’t brought to Larrikin’s attention until almost 30 years after the release of the 1979 and 1981 recordings of Down Under, following an episode of the ABC television program Spicks and Specks.
Hayes' documentary points out that Sinclair would likely have heard the song Down Under at some point during the last years of her life. Presumably, she either didn’t recognise the Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gumtree tune or didn’t care. Many of the subjects in the documentary describe how she had a generosity of spirit with respect to sharing her song and connecting communities in a way that Larrikin evidently didn’t.
The ongoing problem with copyrightRecent controversies like the Blurred Lines case show that there is an ongoing problem with copyright. It seems clear from these cases that copyright is not serving its original purpose.
Ideally, we don’t want our artists to feel the need to “take cover” – they should be encouraged to make and produce new works, as copyright was originally intended.
What makes the story of Men at Work’s greatest single so striking – and worthy fodder for a book and documentary – is the inadvertent way that the copyright infringement was discovered and the tragic aftermath of the court decision.
On 19 April 2012, Men at Work’s flautist Greg Ham was found dead in his home. In Hayes’ documentary, Men at Work’s drummer Jerry Speiser describes the case as being “just another nail in Greg’s coffin.” He said, “I wouldn’t say it was the cause of his death but it certainly contributed".
While copyright law is not fully responsible for Ham’s tragic death, it is not difficult to see how such a finding of copying would devastate any artist and undermine their integrity as a creative professional.
A fairer copyright lawIn an exhaustive report released in February 2014, the Australian Law Reform Commission recommended that Australia should introduce more flexibility into our copyright law.
The key recommendation was to create a new “fair use” exception that would allow artists more creative freedom in borrowing and quoting from existing works.
Currently, copying without permission is only permitted if it falls under a prescribed purpose – such as for research or study, criticism or review, parody or satire, and reporting the news. There is no exception that allows artists to quote and rework the material that inspires them.
Fair use allows courts to excuse copying that isn’t harmful. Greg Ham’s flute riff is exactly the kind of tribute that imposes no costs on the original creator. Both the documentary and the book point out that, in fact, this is not just harmless copying of copyright expression – it’s exactly the kind of creativity that Australian copyright law should encourage.
So far, the Australian Government has not taken up the ALRC’s recommendations. Reform in this area is much needed and urgent – if we had had a fair use exception before 2010, the outcome of the Down Under case could have been very different. Certainly, it would have been much fairer.
Down Under by Trevor Conomy is published by Affirm Press on August 1. Watch the trailer for the documentary You Better Take Cover by Harry Hayes here.
Nicolas Suzor is Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law at Queensland University of Technology.
Rachel Choi is Research Assistant, Faculty of Law at Queensland University of Technology.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.