Archive for July, 2004

BBC NEWS: Call for freely available science

Tuesday, July 20th, 2004

According to BBC: Call for freely available science, a Science and Technology Committee of the British House of Commons wants:

publicly funded research to be made freely available online by means of archived digital information banks [and urges]
the government to consider allocating funds to universities and other organisations to create online repositories where their research can be stored, and viewed by the public free of charge.

Update: Full coverage of this issue (including reaction and comment) can be found at Open Access News.

Open Publication on Silk Road Seattle?

Wednesday, July 14th, 2004

In a recent post to Sogdian-L, John Hill announced the on-line availability of the first draft of his annotated translation of the Weilue, a 3rd century CE Chinese text that, among other things, preserves unique information about maritime routes to the Roman Empire. Like his earlier translation, The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu (now in a second edition, 2003), Hill offers his translation freely to all:

You are most welcome to download it or use it as you wish.

Most of the other texts available in the Historical Texts section of the Silk Road site are e-prints of out-of-copyright editions (sometimes updated or annotated), with the exception of Nicholas Sims-Williams’ translation of certain ancient Sogdian letters. Some of these texts bear copyright statements. The site as a whole makes copyright claims on behalf of itself and/or the individual authors, permitting “non-profit educational use” and web-linking, but prohibiting download or copying “of materials for re-distribution and in particular for any profit-generating enterprise.” No formal document license is invoked.

To what degree can such a ‘do-it-yourself’ approach to copyright and licensing terminology, which at present we also follow at the Ancient World Mapping Center, be seen to be adequate on the net? In light of the relative ease of this approach, what are the benefits and advantages (or pitfalls?) of employing a formal, ‘open’ license endorsed by one or another scholarly or ‘open’ publication bodies?


Wednesday, July 14th, 2004

Peter Heslin writes that he has updated Diogenes, his freeware (GPL) tool for searching and browsing the databases of ancient texts, primarily in Latin and Greek, that are published by the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae and the Packard Humanities Institute. Here’s the entry in his changelog:

v. 1.3 Long-delayed bug-fix release. The interface to the Perseus morphological parser must have changed at some point, because words with a chi, xi, or psi had broken. Fixed handling of browsing of non-numerical targets (eg. biographies). Fixed encoding of web pages, so cutting and pasting has a better chance of working. A few other small fixes. Began using Darcs for source control. (13-Jul-04)

In addition he has added a feature I’d requested recently, more ubiquitous display of basic TLG Canon metadata when browsing texts. Thanks Peter!

Imagining the Blogosphere

Monday, July 12th, 2004

Worth reading, I think, is Graham Lampa’s “Imagining the Blogosphere: An Introduction to the Imagined Community of Instant Publishing” but I do wonder about the level of historical perspective in comments like this:

The low-cost appeal of instant publishing promotes a democratic feeling that permeates the blogosphere, but when one critically considers global Internet access and usage, it is clear that the community represents a relatively small number of global elites who have the luxury of time, talent, and expendable wealth. In this way the blogosphere parallels ancient Athens, with a system of enlightened democracy that was nonetheless restricted to the wealthy few. While there are no formal mechanisms barring entry into the blogosphere, the mere luxury of Internet access remains out of reach for the vast majority of global citizens. Although many blogging services may be free, the substantial amount of capital and operating costs needed to simply access the Internet are insurmountable obstacles to many in the developing world.

Setting aside the characterization of ancient Athens, I wonder whether this emphasis on elitism isn’t more than a little overstated. The barriers to expressing oneself on a global scale have surely never been lower in human history, and that goes even for determined people in developing countries — I’m thinking of personal anecdotes I’ve heard from friends about street kids in Africa finding ways to check their Yahoo email accounts.

Microsoft, markup, and electronic editions

Saturday, July 10th, 2004

Interesting thoughts in an email from Neel Smith:

Microsoft is selling through Amazon its copyrighted version of the U.S. Constitution. (Honest — there’s no way I could make up stuff this good.)

I gather that the copyright claims are based on their structuring of the text in MS’s own eBook format — that is, they are not claiming copyright on the text of the U.S. Constitution, but on the particular e-edition that they will sell you.

While I find this a ludicrous business proposition, I think there’s a legitimate point here: MS seems to me to imply that a differently structured text (for example, a semantically marked-up, TEI-conformant XML edition) constitutes a distinct and separately copyrightable edition.

The text of the US Consitution is in the public domain, as is any ancient Greek or Latin text, so any new edition of the US Constitution, the Iliad or Herodotus does not pose any of the problems with derivative works.

So I think MS would share my view that it would be a copyright violation to reproduce fully ML West’s Oxford edition of Hesiod (with introduction, apparatus, etc), but it would be legitimate to take Hesiod’s text as printed by West, provide a new electronic structure (e.g., TEI XML) and claim copyright on the new e-edition.

May be the first time I’ve ever found myself on the same side as MS in a question connected to copyright.


Wednesday, July 7th, 2004

from Ralph Mathisen:

The third biennial conference on the topic of “Ancient Studies — New Technology: The World Wide Web and Scholarly Research, Communication, and Publication in Ancient, Byzantine, and Medieval Studies” will be held December 3-5, 2004, at James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA. Topics of particular interest include 1 the digital museum; 2) the digital classroom; 3) the digital scholar; and 4) theoretical issues such as “knowledge representation”. 300-word electronic abstracts dealing with these issues and with other ways in which the WEB can help to promote classical, ancient, Byzantine, and medieval studies may be directed to Ralph Mathisen, Program Chair, at and (snail-mail: Department of History, 309 Gregory Hall, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801). Deadline for receipt of abstracts is August 31, 2004. Programs for previous conferences may be consulted at http://www.roman- (2000 Conference) and conf_program.html (2002 Conference). The website for the upcoming conference is located at