Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Reuse of Digitised Content (2): Here's One I Made Earlier, or, It's Lolly Time

Following on from my previous post in which I bemoan how hard it is to reuse digitised content as a source for creating something, I reuse a digitised image of an item in the National Library of Scotland, discovering how tricky it is to reuse images of "orphan works", but producing something that, well, I like!


After a few months of exploring digitised collections looking for A Thing to Make and Do, something caught my eye. Ironically, I found it whilst flicking through a print catalogue of an exhibition I hadn't had the chance to attend: Going to the pictures: Scotland at the cinema, which had run at the National Library of Scotland* in the summer of 2012. A quick google showed it had been digitised at least in low resolution, appearing on the website: 
A 1960s "lantern" interval slide tempting patrons 
to buy an ice lolly, used at the Odeon Cinema, 
Eglinton Toll, Glasgow. Image used here 
with permission from the Scottish Screen Archive,
National Library of Scotland. [source page]

Look at that! How cheerful is it? And right up my street. I kept going back to it and going... ahhhhh! But was it digitised in high enough resolution, and could I get permission to do anything with it, given it is quite clearly still in copyright?

The folks at the Scottish Screen Archive, and the Intellectual Property Officer at the National Library of Scotland, couldn't have been more helpful. Yes, they had previously digitised it at high resolution (all 69MB of it), and I could get permission to use it for my own use (and to feature the image(s) here on my blog) for the princely sum of ten of your British Pounds for the license. I also contacted the Odeon: their records dont go that far back for design so they cannot prove they own copyright, but they gave me permission to use it if they do, with the caveat that a copyright owner, whom they cannot speak for, may come forward at some future date (and hey, stranger things have happened once you put things into the blogosphere, if anyone knows anything about the illustrator, please get in touch). This lantern slide is officially an "orphan work", then. This means it isn't in the public domain, and I cant reuse the high resolution image provided from the SSA willy-nilly (such as making a pattern for anyone to use with it, or giving away the source files, or putting it up on third party website such as spoonflower), under the terms of the license agreed. But it means I can use it for personal use. I'll come back to that later, but lets crack on.

Getting My Make On

The process of turning this into something was straightforward. Once I had the high res file, I spent a few hours tidying up the image, removing some scratches and marks from the slide: this is a fragile, opaque, archival item, and it's no wonder that, close up, there were some marks that may detract from print quality. Its a line to walk, though: you dont want to make it too cleaned up. It still wants to look original.
Before and after, with a bit of cleaning up in PhotoShop.

This resulted in a cleaned up version of the lantern slide, ready to go:
It's not a huge difference from the original (and I havent put the full resolution file up here that I have, I'm not allowed to), but it just makes the whole thing a bit fresher for printing.

Then it was just a case of more PhotoShop jiggery pokery, measuring up, tiling, choosing my printer (I went with BagsofLove, a UK company which seems to offer quite a range of printing: people online say that if you order from Spoonflower, a company based in the USA, import duty can really make the costs mount up for shipping to the UK).

The Big Reveal

Ta da! A pure silk scarf, with repeating motif. Cute, huh? Bagsoflove offer silk printing plus hemming, given a lot of people want silk scarves to test patterns. I got quite a large one made, and the whole thing cost £100 all in, ready to wear).

And here I am wearing it! While we are talking about copyright, etc, this photo was taken by my 6 year old who has given me permission to post it here (which also might explain why all the scarf is cropped out on the left! but you get the drift).

Thoughts On the Process

Do I like the resulting item? Well, I chuckled when it came in the post, so yeah. I do feel as if I've made it - a few hours navigating licensing issues, about 5 hours total in PhotoShop, a few hours choosing where to get it made and what to get it made into, so it feels like I've had to invest time (and some brain effort, in working out tiling sizes, etc, and what I actually wanted size wise: this was a significant investment in time and cash, so its good to get it right). It's already made me think about the next digital printing project, which means the whole thing must've been fun. Working, as I do, with so much digital data, its nice to actually have a product at the end of the day. Going with silk was expensive, and there are cheaper options available, but I've got a high quality item (that would probably cost around the same on the high street - I'm not going to make a fortune if I choose to sell these on etsy, unless I go for a cheaper supplier!).

The one frustration I have is that I cant share the files with anyone, and I cant say, if you like it, here it is, get it printed up yourself, and I cant, at the moment, stick it up on etsy for sale even if I wanted to, due to the orphan works copyright restrictions. I talked at length with the NLS's Intellectual Property Officer, and we walked through why its just not legal, at the moment, for them to allow someone else to "publish" something that is in their collection and still in copyright without getting the holder's permission, and I understand this - although it doesnt mean I'm not frustrated by that. (You could get a license from the NLS yourself, if you wanted to use it for personal use).

But of course, the law on the licensing of orphan works in the UK is changing very soon. The upcoming orphan works licensing scheme (coming into force on the 29th October 2014) will allow that a person can obtain a license for commercial or non-commercial use of an orphan work on payment of a nominal fee and demonstration of a ‘diligent search’. (There's a PDF summary of this new scheme over at the Intellectual Property Office's website, with more on diligent search here). At time of writing, there is very little up there about how the process will work, or what the "nominal" fee would be (one person's nominal is another person's how-bleedin'-much?) but that's one to watch. Come the end of October, I'll start a blog post chasing this image through the Orphan Works Licensing Scheme: who knows, within a few months, you may be able to make some It's Lolly Time! merchandise yourself, should you care to.

It's been a fun journey, chasing something from idea to conception to manipulation to production. I've learned a lot about how we are delivering digital content to end users in the gallery, library, archive and museum sector, and also how frustrating it can be at times. But look, I've eventually ended up with a bespoke thing that I love, just for me. And once I've published this blog post, I'm going to start wearing the scarf that I made, just in time for winter-a-comin' in.

*One final thing to say: eagle-eyed regular readers may know that I'm currently serving on the board of the National Library of Scotland, but I applied to use this image from my civilian, non-work, unidentifiable email account, so as not to get any special treatment in the process of licensing. It has to be said though, that being on the board was the reason I was flicking through past catalogues of their exhibitions in the first place! And I'm personally glad I found something in the NLS collections that so tickled me: a little bit of Scotland to remind me of where I'm from, and an emotional attachment to a piece of digitised cultural heritage.

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