Community Content Copyright e-content Funding Independent Voices JISC Digital Content Conference

Selecting alternative and underground press content for open access

Peggy Glahn of Reveal Digital concluded a recent guest post on this blog by stating:

As proven by the Independent Voices project, Reveal Digital is building an exciting and innovative approach to open access publishing that puts libraries in control of their own content while providing scholars with important new primary source material to support their learning.

As Jisc’s own Independent Voices project is developing, we are working to identify an approach with will enable UK Higher Education libraries to benefit in the same way as their US counterparts. There are a couple of significant differences though. The copyright regime in the US and the UK differ considerable.  The US ‘Fair Use’ exceptions enable access to content for internal research and educational purposes.

Another difference between the UK and US initiative is the fact that some large US collections of independent press material had been scanned to microfilm. Though microfilm can be problematic in terms of quality, it does at least provide opportunity for a large amount of content to be easily located in one place. Digitising microform has provided a strong basis on which to build the US IV collection. We have so far not been able to identify such a readily available collection in the UK, at least not amongst the 10 libraries which have signed up the initiative to date.

There are significant collections of material at UCL, especially so called little magazines, but identifying which ones we should digitise requires academic steering. With this kind of material each academic is likely to have their own particular favourite, so identifying representative content from the UK would require some kind of curatorial approach, informed by academic demand. The risk with such an approach is that we might not address one vital issue with this kind of material; the thorny domain of the moral rights of contributors.

In some instances, rights owners may wish to stay anonymous or in others, where they are identifiable, they may not want to be associated with something they produced in the past or which they had not anticipated would see wide publication and distribution.  In many instances this type of content relates to particular issues such as fighting perceived injustices, political causes or it might be simply antagonistic to particular tenets of society. Therefore there is a sense of ownership over the content which extends beyond copyright. Taking a community approach to clearance, whereby we seek to engage with major protagonists in the publications  with the hope of so engaging with other contributors, is one strategy we will pursue to address the moral rights issue. The problem with this is that it is quite time consuming.

Our first hurdle is to both identify UK independent press material which will be of value to academic research, teaching and learning and to be secure in the knowledge that the material has any chance of being cleared for open access. We think that we should follow our own path by complementing the British Library Spare Rib offer which is presented on Jisc’s Journals Archives. We also think there might be value in pursuing material related the fight for racial equality, LGBT rights and perhaps the UK’s contribution to the Avant Garde.

Identifying methods to address these issues will for key outputs of the project. It is not so much about adding content to the Reveal Offer, though that is important, it is rather about establishing a model for future provision of open access content in the UK. Jisc has significant evidence that academics want access to content which has been produced over the last hundred years. Not having such access is affecting their ability to address key issues in the humanities.

The institutions which have taken up our Independent Voices offer are contributing 50% of that fee to these activities. We have now, in agreement with Reveal Digital, extended the pledging period for the collection to the end of 2017 to facilitate greater participation in the initiative and to ensure more libraries can benefit from the fantastic content currently available to signed up institutions.  Please take a look at what is currently on offer. Your institution can then follow the usual acquisition process via Jisc Collections (see the collection link above).

If you are an academic with an interest in seeing particular UK originated content appear on open access over the next few years, please get in touch with me: We are particularly interested in hearing from academics who want access to alternative press content relating to feminism, LGBT rights, racial justice and the UK Avant Garde.

By Peter Findlay

Subject Matter Expert, Digital Scholarship, Content and Discovery, Jisc

Working with Jisc's Higher Education members to improve access to to their special collections in the age of data-centric arts, humanities and social science research.

I am a site admin for this website.

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