Reflection on a Data Management Plan

I made an appt. for Camilla and I to meet with librarian Stephen Klein, the Digital Dissertation Librarian, before class last Monday Feb. 26. He had good news for us about working with Omeka for the LAC group project CONTENT, DATA and OBJECTIVES, and bad news for us about the “RIGHTS + USAGE” of our planned data set. It was great that he pointed this out, esp. as rights require a long lead time to request and obtain.

When librarian Stephen Zweibel then visited our DH Praxis class later that same day/eve, I asked him during his Q + A with the class about the matters of rights surrounding the French report that the LAC project data is hinging on, specifically, the data tables contained in it, and one aspect in particular: is the data in the report the intellectual property of the co-authors and/or the many French cultural agencies that helped prepare the report? Stephen assessed that there were many sub-questions therein, so he recommended I email Jill Cirasella.

Serendipitously, I recently connected with her via Twitter when she posted her slides of her “Fair Usage in DH” workshop she gave during NYCDH Week. I received a reply from her quickly afterward, which was very generous of her b/c she’s on sabbatical this term.

Based upon Jill’s expertise in her reply to my inquiry, Camilla has assessed the LAC project’s use of the data from the report as “good to go” and thereby as a “go ahead” with our original planned data set.

So the main takeaway for myself in this reflection, and from me in this post, is the reminder that there is NO Data Management Plan without clearing all rights + usage FIRST. Granted, there are times when you must hedge and TRIPLE track all permissions with a Content Management Plan AND a Data Management Plan. This is the reality of building UNIQUE, DH-y digital platforms from data + content + intellectual property.

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  1. Posted March 5, 2019 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Yay! I’m so glad you were able to connect with Jill. I have a lot of questions about your adventures with fair use and copyright, so I hope we can hear a little about this in class. I’m not totally sure from your post whether you got permission or assessed your use as fair, but either way, that’s a really useful experience to have.

  2. Posted April 1, 2019 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Hi Nancy,

    Thank you so much, and forgive my very delayed reply to your supportive comment (and I’m happy to talk about my adventures with fair use + copyright anytime). Below is my email exchange with Jill Cirasella in RIGHTS + USAGE, for you, and the class. Thanks so much for your interest, I also find R + U of interest esp. as they relate to intellectual property and how the Internet has drastically altered many prior laws “on the books”. ~Carolyn

    Email Reply from Jill Cirasella, Feb. 28, 2019, to Carolyn A. McDonough on R + U:

    Hi Carolyn,

    Beginning with the necessary caveat that I am not a lawyer and can only offer education and information rather than legal advice, I’m happy to help!

    I’m going to break my reply down into two parts: 1) what U.S. copyright law recognizes and 2) how the information’s foreign origin affects things. 1) Facts and ideas are not protected under U.S. copyright law. An individual data point is a simple fact and thus is not protected. When facts are compiled, the compilation itself (separate from the underlying facts) may or may not be protected, depending on whether the arrangement/presentation of the facts is obvious/conventional or done with some creativity. The United States does not factor in “sweat of the brow” (i.e., the creator’s labor in collecting and generating compilations) when deciding whether it is covered by copyright law. These matters were all laid out in a 1991 Supreme Court opinion about phone books — the opinion itself is actually a fascinating read, if you’re interested.

    So, if a table of facts exhibits no “minimal degree of creativity,” the table isn’t covered by copyright law, so a fair use analysis would not even be required.

    2) International copyright is very complex and is governed by a series of international treaties. I can’t claim to be an expert, but I can share a few key points. Both the US and France signed the Berne Convention, which obliges members to observe the principle of “national treatment,” i.e., a country must protect works that originate in other member countries as it protects works that originate from within that country — see point 1(a) on this summary. If my understanding is correct, that means that a French work is protected in the US the same way US works are protected.

    So I believe this means we do not need to dive deep into understanding the specifics of French copyright law, since US copyright law would apply here. (For what it’s worth, the EU recognizes property rights over computer databases, regardless of the level of creativity, but you’re asking about using information presented in tables in publications, not computer databases.)

    Of course, academic norms about citation and reproducibility still apply, so be sure to maintain citations to your sources!

    I hope this helps — please let me know if I didn’t answer your question or if anything I wrote isn’t clear, and I’ll direct you to additional explanations.


    ​PS: This page is really great and covers both tables/charts and compilations:

    Email from Carolyn A. McDonough, Feb. 27, 2019, to Jill Cirasella on R + U:

    Dear Jill,

    We recently tweeted each other about your NYCDH week workshop “Fair Use in DH” slides, thanks again for making them available!

    I was referred to you by Stephen Zweibel regarding a complicated usage question.

    I’m working in a group project for DHPraxis this semester titled “Lost Art Collective” that my colleague and Project Originator, Camilla Skoglie, developed. Her/our dataset stems from a Nov. 2018 report co-authored by a scholar and a French journalist, and prepared with the Ministere de la Culture, various official agencies, and the Universite at Nantes (to name just a few) about the looted African art found in the Branly-Chirac Museum, Paris.

    In the report, there tables of data we’d like to use by converting them to .csv format in order to build both a database in Omeka (of the stolen art identified in the report and recommended for restitution) and a data visualization in Neatline of the art’s diaspora.

    Our question is: may we use the data in the tables? I have attached two examples. Please note they are not the actual tables from the report, but rather a sample from another document written ABOUT the report, but they are representative of the tables in the report.

    We wanted to consult your expertise on whether these tables are “protected” info proprietary to the authors, agencies or the museum of the report OR are they “public” info since they appear in a published report that was prepared by the official cultural agencies of the current French government?

    Any guidance you could provide would be truly appreciated with apologies for writing to you while you’re on sabbatical. If you’re amenable to meeting, we’d be happy to meet with you anywhere at your convenience

    We look forward to hearing from you.

    All best,
    Carolyn A. McDonough


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