Open Data – a business model perspective
“If cultural heritage organisation do not expose data in ways that digital natives want to use it, they risk becoming irrelevant to the next generation.”
Today Europeana publishes its second White Paper, ‘The Problem of the Yellow Milkmaid: a Business Model perspective on Open Metadata’. The paper is the result of a roundtable that brought together leading figures in the cultural heritage sector. The experts examined the opportunities and risks associated with open licensing of their massive datasets, which comprise the record of all publications and cultural artefacts in Europe.
The White Paper documents their findings and is published to meet a growing need among libraries, museums, archives and audio-visual collections for a new business model that weighs the current digital opportunities against traditional concerns about ownership and control. It makes specific recommendations to be addressed and concludes that “the benefits of open data sharing and open distribution... outweigh the risks”.
This echoes Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda, who got to the crux of the matter in a recent article: “Cultural institutions in Europe are debating the re-use of their digital assets, such as digital copies of public domain works and metadata created by the institution. I urge cultural institutions to open up control of their data, and to make digital copies of public domain works easily accessible and re-usable. This is what is needed today to take full advantage of the new possibilities offered by digital technologies. Giving access to our common heritage, ensuring […] that it is used and benefits society, is at the very heart of cultural institutions' raison d'être.”
Interest in open data is growing among policy makers, application and software developers and innovative thinkers in the Linked Open Data/ Semantic Web movement. The European Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe 2020 identifies opening up public data sources for re-use as a key action in support of the digital single market, and proposes adapting the EU’s Public Sector Information Directive which governs the use of data. The Commission’s position is that data created by the public sector should be freely available as raw material for innovative re-use. To do so stimulates the digital economy and thereby creates jobs and provides social and economic benefit.
The White Paper features case studies of organisations that are in the vanguard of open data. They include Yale University, the German National Library, Cambridge University and the British Museum. Many other data providers are following in their footsteps: in signing Europeana’s new Data Exchange Agreement, contributors to Europeana’s dataset of 20 million items commit to an open licence in order to provide the raw material for innovation in the sector.
The Data Exchange Agreement is the primary element in the Europeana Licensing Framework. The Framework is also published today, and establishes the co-ordinates of Europeana’s position on open data, the public domain, and users’ rights and responsibilities. The goal of the Framework is to standardise rights-related information and practices. Its intention is to bring clarity to a complex area and make transparent the relationship between people who want to use information and the institutions that provide that information to Europeana.
“We want to make information about culture ubiquitous – available to people whenever and wherever they want, on whatever device, through apps that we are only just imagining. We want them to be clear about how they can use it – downloading it to their device, incorporating it in their projects, using it for their work,” says Jill Cousins, Executive Director of Europeana. “Facilitating pilot initiatives and prototype apps is a role that Europeana is perhaps uniquely equipped to play in Europe, working within a network that includes many of the world’s greatest memory organisations. A robust licensing framework is important if these prototype apps are to fulfil their potential, and we advocate an open licence so that Europe’s citizens can derive greatest benefit from the cultural heritage collections that they pay to maintain.”