ELL: ELs and copyright

Nick Thieberger n.thieberger at LINGUISTICS.UNIMELB.EDU.AU
Thu Sep 20 23:59:49 UTC 2001

Dear EL list members

This is to inform you of an issue that concerns the representation of
endangered languages on the web. We are linguists working with
Australian and Pacific languages who have also constructed websites
providing authoritative information about those languages.

A website based in Holland and calling itself a work of art has
appropriated images and text from our sites without reference and
without linking to our sites. It has introduced inaccuracies in the
process. We requested that the author of the site remove images that
he had no right to use and that he link to the sources so that
information could be properly verified by users of the WWW.

Of particular concern is his cavalier use of images of indigenous
people taken from the website of FATSIL, the national body supporting
Australian indigenous languages.

He ignored our repeated requests, and then recently has closed down
the Australian section of his site, making fairly outrageous
statements linking our requests with the Australian government's
appalling policy on asylum seekers.

We support the free interchange of information, as long as it is
properly referenced and its sources are acknowledged. There are
particular sensitivities in the misappropriation of images of
indigenous people whose confidence in us allowed us to make this
information available.

Our work is covered by copyright and moral rights legislation in
various  jurisdictions. If we, collectively, are to have confidence
in web publishing of information then we also need to be sure that
(1) the information we produce will not be misappropriated (2) when
we read information on the web we know whose sites are accurate and
provide links to them.

The site ('Small house of  languages') is not an authoritative site
on ELs and the way it is constructed is not helpful to the broader
aim of supporting indigenous people and small languages.

Dave Nathan & Nick Thieberger

Department of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
University of Melbourne

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