Monday, June 27, 2016

Multiple connections to the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) LOD project

One of the things I like about working at is the links between what I'm paid for (systems and software design,administration,maintenance) and other aspects of my life. A project we have with the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) is an example.

A Linked Open Data Internet Hosting Project

Canadiana's primary involvement in the project is to host the Artefacts Canada Linked Open Data website.

The platform was developed by another contractor for CHIN, and is built upon two NoSQL database servers with Solr for text search and Blazegraph as a graph database.  The 'aclod' (Artefacts Canada Linked Open Data) application is written in Java, and runs within a Jetty.

Part of why we wanted to partner with CHIN is that we are growing our access platform and need to explore graph database technology for Linked Open Data (LOD) projects.  The graph database would be in addition to our existing use of Solr, CouchDB and MySQL. Our metadata architect, software lead and myself as systems lead will be taking a close look at this application.

The site is currently hosted within our Ottawa datacenter, but will soon be moving to a more powerful host located at the University of Toronto. As part of our Trustworthy Digital Repository certification we have succession agreements with 3 partners where we have servers as part of our preservation network: Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, University of Toronto, and University of Alberta in Edmonton. We have a half-cabinet in a Montreal commercial datacenter, but I look forward to when this can be moved to a fourth partner joining the preservation network (Greetings to anyone reading this from McGill, Université de Montréal, or UBC which are the other 3 often listed as the top 5 Canadian universities).

An Open Government initiative

I am a long time (Free/Libre and) open source, open data and open government advocate. While I was reading the Draft New Plan on Open Government 2016-2018 I noticed something familiar within Commitment 8: Enhance Access to Culture & Heritage Collections.
In 2015-16, the Canadian Heritage Information Network Program (CHIN) partnered with eight art museums across Canada to develop an approach to link the collections of each museum with each other, and to related external resources, based on industry best practices (e.g., Linked Open Data). This work demonstrates the feasibility of using Open Data approaches to link collections across museums and other memory organizations.
This project that Canadiana has been asked to host is a small part of something much larger that will hopefully grow with further stages of this project and the growth of government released linkable open data.

A past customer

I was a self-employed consultant between 1995 and the summer of 2011, when Canadiana convinced me to become a salaried employee.  This was after completing a 6-month contract with them starting in January 2011.

In the winter of 1997/98 I did a contract for CHIN to upgrade their online subscription registration system to include subscription renewals. This was built with PHP and FI, prior to when those component were merged to become the PHP scripting language people are more familiar with today. I was impressed that this agency of a federal department had adopted this emerging web-based language developed by Danish-Canadian programmer Rasmus Lerdorf. At the time so much of what I saw in the federal government was locked into languages and technology that were proprietary and controlled by foreign corporations.

Part of the copyright debate

For my first few years at Canadiana I requested to be part-time so that I could attend, live-tweet and write daily commentary on the hearings for the copyright bill (first for C-32, which was re-tabled as C-11). I was a witness on March 8, 2011.

Browsing the ACLOD site you will see images of artwork whose creators have died prior to 1966, meaning the works are in the public domain in Canada and not subject to copyright regulations for Canadians. On the site there are notes suggesting some of these images are regulated by copyright, with the gallery or museum alleging copyright.

Canada is a country that requires "skill and judgement" as a test for originality to be granted copyright, and most lawyers agree that merely digitizing (regardless of the type of recording equipment used or if a human or tripod was holding the recording device) existing artistic works does not create new copyright.

This policy of some museums and galleries is controversial for artists as they find it frustrating (and sometimes insulting) that these institutions often don't pay creators to publicly exhibit their works during the term of copyright, and yet charge "copyright" related fees for artists to build upon mere digitization of works in the public domain.

Canadiana is a creation of the Canadian library community: We're a Canadian charity with a board made up of representatives of the LAM community, not a vendor.  I believe it is important for all memory institutions and other parts of the Library, Archive and Museum (LAM) community to work together to help minimise confusion and animosity around copyright. I don't say this as a critique of the great work that went into this or similar projects, but as an area of policy where I believe there is considerable opportunity for improvement within our community.

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