Intellectual Property Concerns

In our initial experiments with the early versions of uScript, we have already encountered some reluctance and skepticism in the acceptance of the “liberal” sharing of transcriptions, particularly on the part of scholars. A typical objection would be that a researcher would not want to make his “discoveries” public until he or she had a chance to publish the findings.

We think we can implement a series of mechanisms that will appease any such objections, and we are still seeking funding to able to investigate all of the possibilities in the course of this project. For instance, we could freeze transcriptions for a number of days or months until the author releases them to the public, after the results have been published. We also plan to make it easy to extract well-formatted citations from uScript whenever a transcription is quoted in a paper, giving proper credit to the original translators, in a manner similar to the Firefox add-on called Zotero.

An underlying incentive for the release of transcriptions into the public domain will be the ability to use uScript itself, and the associated accessibility to manuscript images and to pre-existing transcriptions which should entice reluctant users to appreciate the quid-pro-quo nature of the system.

Another essential aspect to the system we design is that it be truly useful to its users, so that they will want to use our system in the first place and thus become participants in the global sharing of transcriptions. Thus, a virtuous cycle is instituted whereby each transcriber can share his/her work and can in return benefit from the work of others. The gradual accumulation of transcriptions will greatly expedite the making of history in true “emergent” fashion.

Our goal for uScript is that archives around the world will use its framework to transcribe (or obtain transcriptions of) their manuscript collections. We have no plans to offer any services or system components relating to the actual digitization of manuscript collections, although we foresee one use of the uScript users forums we implement being as a place for archivists to discuss the merits of various digitization techniques as they prepare their collections for submission to uScript.