Africa Media Online has developed systems and processes to ensure that heritage institutions with whom it works maintain control over their collections while having the means to share them with the world
Africa Media Online’s core vision is Africans telling Africa’s story and fundamental to that is the commitment to ensuring that ownership of our heritage stays in the hands of the custodians of that heritage. For this reason in taking on digitisation projects we sign a digitisation agreement document which states clearly that copyright of the digitised material remains with the originating organisation or individual. Even if the original object is out of copyright, we work hard to ensure that custodianship remains in the hands of custodians who, of course, may be free to grant open access should they see fit.
Africa Media Online employs best practice processes in digitisation, whether that is through scanning, photography or some other capture device. For projects where a limited number of objects are digitised and these are easily moved, capture takes place at the offices of Africa Media Online in Pietermaritzburg. A representative of each museum or archive is encouraged to travel with the objects to Pietermaritzburg and return with them. Should a particular project take more than a day the images are stored overnight in Africa Media Online’s fireproof safe. Projects which require the digitisation of a large number of objects or images to be captured are undertaken on the client’s premises by Africa Media Online’s Mobile Digitisation Unit.
Bringing solutions to the heritage sector from the media sector where the protection of print ready files on internet systems has been a need for a decade or so, Africa Media Online has developed the MEMAT system whereby only low resolution watermarked files are available for viewing until the visitor to your online collection logs in and either purchases use rights or is given special research access controlled by you. Only then can they access the high resolution file. Legal agreements also ensure that the user has limited rights in the use of digital files unless of course you want to give open access or access via a Creative Commons license.
Research shows that the vast majority of theft of objects or artefacts from museums and archives is in-house. Only a small portion is from outside. If anything, digitising collections helps to safeguard them, not only is the heritage and art world made aware that a particular object belongs to your institution, but if something is stolen, you have an exact record proving that a particular object is yours. When digitising objects a record can be made of certain unique details on the object. These unique details are not made available to the public but serve you as a way of identifying whether a lost of stolen object is indeed your own. Africa Media Online scans images at 16 bits at between 120 and 140 MB per image ensuring a high quality output file at 8 bits of between 50 and 60 MB. Archival tiff files are delivered to the originating institution for safe-keeping.
The digitisation process helps you to take steps toward clarifying copyright issues surrounding your collections
Unless the image or object is over 50 years old and unless the copyright has been transferred to you, you do need to have in place an agreement with the copyright holder. Africa Media Online has developed standard agreements in this regard that you can use in cases where you know who the copyright holder is. For material where you do not know who the copyright holder is, in the near future Orphan Works legislation will in all likelihood protect you in this regard. For now, however, under South African law, works over 50 years old are in the public domain and in digitising them, as the custodian of the material, you are able to assert custodianship of the digital copy. If you are wanting to make digital copies of an object available for access purposes, Africa Media Online strongly recommends that you involve the copyright holder.
Metadata about the digitized material is captured as part of the process ensuring accurate use of digitised collections
Africa Media Online requires that every image submitted for digitisation has associated metadata captured. Once digitised this metadata is embedded into the image file itself. The international standards for this was developed by the International Press and Telecommunications Council who based it on Dublin Core. The advantage is that it ensures that wherever the image file goes, the correct information goes too. This assists toward the correct use of images by researchers and publications. Most digitised objects or images from heritage organisations are only appropriate for editorial use to further the dissemination of information and for education furthering your institution’s educational goals. Dealing with many text book publishers and other editorial users, Africa Media Online works hard to ensure images are used within context. Any request for use for commercial purposes requires written permission from you, the custodian. Africa Media Online utilizes appropriate channels, experienced at dealing with historic material, to distribute images to international publishing and media.
Collection owners are empowered to interact with a global audience through having their own online digital collection system
Africa Media Online is in the business of empowering African heritage professionals and heritage institutions to access a global audience themselves while at the same time providing secure access to markets through its own network. Africa Media Online’s MEMAT technology is used to power the online collections of heritage organisations and enables those organisations to manage, present, market, sell use rights, receive payment and deliver digital files and legally license use rights. In this way heritage institutions not only maintain ownership and control over their collections, but they also own the trade route to a global audience. A number of heritage organisations have also chosen to outsource this function to us on a commission basis. In addition Africa Media Online also provides a ready market for licensing use rights through AfricaMediaOnline.com and gives ongoing advice and support, ensuring long-term sustainability for digitised collections.
These Digitisation Principles form a part of the Digital Trade Route provided by Africa Media Online.