GLAM-WIKI 2015/Proposals/ - The Public Domain Calculator

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This is an accepted submission for GLAM-WIKI 2015.

Submission no. GW15.1019
The Public Domain Calculator
Tessa Askamp & Maarten Zeinstra
the Netherlands
Kennisland (an Amsterdam based think tank), in cooperation with Bibliothèque Nationale de Luxembourg &
websites & &

Curious if a work is in the public domain, hence can be reused without restrictions? Copyright is one of the biggest obstacle for getting more culture on Wikipedia. is a platform designed to create clarity about the copyright status of works. It calculates the public domain status of single works and whole collections for 30 European jurisdictions. The website further explains the copyright situation for works after digitisation for all the EU Member States. Three methods of digitisation are identified. The method is a determining factor for the rights created during digitisation.
Proposal - The Public Domain Calculator

Authors Tessa Askamp - Advisor culture and technology, Kennisland Maarten Zeinstra – Advisor copyright and technology, Kennisland Patrick Peiffer – Digital Librarian, Bibliothèque Nationale de Luxembourg

Copyright is one of the factors which forms the biggest obstacle for getting more culture on Wikipedia. GLAMs need to spend enormous amounts of effort and money in rights clearing processes before they can and will license our culture openly enough to appear on Wikimedia services. The platform helps GLAMs to figure out if their collection is in the public domain. It is available for 30 European jurisdictions, and hopefully will lead to more content available on platforms like Wikimedia, but also Europeana and the DPLA.

The platform was first developed in 2011, and has recently been relaunched, with additional functionalities added on top of the calculators, as well as a new section on rights created during digitisation.

The new platform offers tools for users to create their own decision trees. These help to determine the rights status of works and whole collections. This latter aspect is particularly interesting for GLAMs. The calculation of a whole collection is possible via a REST API. The site hosts an open source web-based visual decision tree editor that, upon publication, creates a custom REST API and allows for form-based input. The API degrades depending on the amount of metadata that is delivered to the system. It can therefore operate with datasets of differing quality and/or with missing metadata.

For projects such as Wikidata, can be useful when determining authority data such as identities or birth and/or death dates of authors. Such data could be used as a source to quickly calculate if the author’s work is in the public domain, and in case it is not, to determine when it will be.

Based on research performed by Thomas Margoni from the Institute for Information Law (IViR), a section of the site is dedicated to the rights status of works after digitisation. Three (hypothetical) scenarios are developed that correspond to three possible methods of digitisation: fully automated digitisation, semi-automated digitisation (with minimal human facilitation) or human operated digitisation. For all Member States of the EU it is analysed what the rights created during digitisation are. Overall, legislation is surprisingly harmonised throughout the EU. In all Member States, fully automated digitisation never leads to copyright protection, and human operated digitisation could lead to protection. The reason for this is that human operated digitisation is often used for the digitisation of three-dimensional objects. When a 2D (digitised) representation of the 3D original is made, certain choices (e.g. light and angle) have to be made, which could then lead to the recognition of the digitised version as a creative work that meets the standards of originality required for copyright protection to rise.

The only digitisation scenario that shows differences across EU countries is the second scenario: semi-automated digitisation. This difference can be explained by the recognition of non-original photographs by some countries. A non-original photograph is a photograph that is a creation not because it is a creative work with a personal stamp of the author (hence: an original work), but a work that came about through considerable technical skill and know-how, by means of which it can be offered protection as a non-original photograph (for usually a shorter term, around 25 years).

The research is visualised in interactive maps. Users can hover over the map to get their questions answered instantly. If they click on a country, they are directed additional information about that country (when available) with additional explanation about copyright protection.

To stimulate further development of the tool and for widespread implementation, all components are documented at github ( and available as open source.

At GLAM-WIKI, we will introduce the website and show how the tool works. The largest part shall be dedicated to introduce and further explain the section about rights created during digitisation. We will extensively introduce the scenarios and explain the legal background, and then link this to some real-life cases about GLAMs that encounter such issues.

  • Remix
  • Capability
  • Exposure

Length of presentation/talk
25 Minutes
Target audience
<intermediate and advanced level. We will clarify the technical details and give some background on copyright related issues, but expect an audience with minimal knowledge about the public domain and reuse of cultural works online>
Expected outcomes
GLAMs no longer have to research the copyright status of works they have digitised. They can know get clear answers on We hope that both GLAMs and creative users will be happy with our public domain calculators, and understand how they work after our presentation.
Will you attend GLAM-WIKI 2015 if your submission is not accepted?
Yes, at least 1 day, hopefully more.
Slides or further information (optional)
Special requests
We prefer to present on the Friday.

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