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In the public domain, but encumbered

It is fantastic that 14 Paris museums have put images of 150,000 artworks into the public domain. Go take a look. It makes the world visibly better.

But …

…The images are easily accessible one at a time for a human who is browsing. You can also click to download it, and then do whatever you want with it. But they are, apparently purposefully, difficult to batch download. That deprives us of the ability to set computers onto the images and their metadata so that they can discover relationships, and patterns of relationships, among them. That’s a lost opportunity.

I understand it’s hard for institutions to give up on the credit they deserve for maintaining these artworks. Items put in the public domain can be passed around and duplicated without any reference to the source that made them available, or even to the artist who created them. But in return, the culture gets to freely share those images, and to incorporate them into new works, which helps to preserve and extend our shared culture.

So I don’t want to be ungrateful for this enormous gift to the world. But one more step – say, an open API that enables batch download – and the world can benefit even more from these museum’s awesome generosity.

(Hat tip to Keith Dawson.)

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