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Business Models for Open Data

On December 1st, Europeana published its second White Paper, The Problem of the Yellow Milkmaid: a Business Model perspective on Open Metadata [PDF]. The title, ‘The Problem of the Yellow Milkmaid’, centres on Johannes Vermeer’s iconic painting, The Milkmaid. In a survey Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum found over 10,000 poor, yellowing copies of their great picture online. How to put a stop to the circulation of bad copies, give people a real sense of the true colour of the picture and stop them questioning the colours of the posters and postcards sold in their shop?  The Rijksmuseum solved the problem by putting a high resolution copy of the Milkmaid online with open metadata, so that it could be easily referenced and shared. ‘Opening up our data,’ says the Rijksmuseum, ‘is our best defence against the ‘yellow Milkmaid’. The paper is the result of a roundtable that brought together leading figures in the cultural heritage sector. The experts examined the opportunities and risks associated with open licensing of their massive datasets, which comprise the record of all publications and cultural artefacts in Europe.
Interest in open data is growing among policy makers, application and software developers and innovative thinkers in the Linked Open Data/ Semantic Web movement. The European Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe 2020 identifies opening up public data sources for re-use as a key action in support of the digital single market, and proposes adapting the EU’s Public Sector Information Directive which governs the use of data. The Commission’s position is that data created by the public sector should be freely available as raw material for innovative re-use. To do so stimulates the digital economy and thereby creates jobs and provides social and economic benefit.

“If cultural heritage organisations do not expose data in ways that digital natives want to use it, they risk becoming irrelevant to the next generation.”

The White Paper features case studies of organisations that are in the vanguard of open data. They include Yale University, the German National Library, Cambridge University and the British Museum. Many other data providers are following in their footsteps: in signing Europeana’s new Data Exchange Agreement, contributors to Europeana’s dataset of 20 million items commit to an open licence in order to provide the raw material for innovation in the sector.
The Data Exchange Agreement is the primary element in the Europeana Licensing Framework. The Framework is also published on December 1st, and establishes the co-ordinates of Europeana’s position on open data, the public domain, and users’ rights and responsibilities. The goal of the Framework is to standardise rights-related information and practices. Its intention is to bring clarity to a complex area and make transparent the relationship between people who want to use information and the institutions that provide that information to Europeana.
“We want to make information about culture ubiquitous – available to people whenever and wherever they want, on whatever device, through apps that we are only just imagining. We want them to be clear about how they can use it – downloading it to their device, incorporating it in their projects, using it for their work,” says Jill Cousins, Executive Director of Europeana. “Facilitating pilot initiatives and prototype apps is a role that Europeana is perhaps uniquely equipped to play in Europe, working within a network that includes many of the world’s greatest memory organisations. A robust licensing framework is important if these prototype apps are to fulfil their potential, and we advocate an open licence so that Europe’s citizens can derive greatest benefit from the cultural heritage collections that they pay to maintain.”


Expert Workshop members

  • Roei Amit, INA, France;
  • Martin Berendse, National Archive, The Netherlands;
  • Caroline Brazier, British Library, UK;
  • Mel Collier, Leuven University, Belgium;
  • Jonathan Gray, Open Knowledge Foundation, UK;
  • Renaldas Gudauskas, National Library of Lithuania, Lithuania;
  • Lizzy Jongma, Rijksmuseum, The Netherlands;
  • Peter B. Kaufman, Intelligent Television, USA;
  • Caroline Kimbell, The National Archives, UK;
  • Jan Muller, Sound and Vision, The Netherlands;
  • Lars Svensson, German National Library, Germany;
  • Helmut Trischler, Deutsches Museum, Germany;
  • Bill Thompson BBC, UK.