Copyright and the Distributed Lexicon


Grimes (2006) describes a distributed lexicography project. Technological and sociological advances in the last twelve years have normalized digital collaboration. Workflows for distributed teams with tools such as FLEx and WeSay have been optimized to allow for many community members to collaborate on lexicon or dictionary making projects. Built-in sync tools allow teams to work in distributed environments for both local network syncing and synchronization through For the researcher or project manager, often working with a distributed team means dividing the workload so that team members can contribute in their areas of strength. Many times this means that a single “dictionary entry” might have edits or partial contributions from multiple people.

Many Institutional Review Boards (IRB) proposals never address the issue of copyright, rather they focus on the ethical treatment of participants in linguistic projects, and issues such as informed consent. Ethical issues related to IRB policies are discussed in the literature (e.g., van Driem 2016). How projects should deal with licensing intellectual property developed within the context of a project is discussed less frequently. Newman (2011:454-456) provides some templates for the transfer of copyright claims from project participants to a researcher. But to some this seems unethical. For instance those who suggest that all rights should be retained by a language community. Newman (2007) addresses some of the concerns that researchers can have towards the legal use of their own (and others’) field data. Undiscussed are highly collaborative project and the tangible creations from these projects.

When left unaddressed intellectual property claims can become catastrophic for a project like a dictionary, if a contributor (or former contributor) wanted all of their contributions removed. Frawley et al. (2002) describe several such cases. On the technical implementation side, tools like FLEx do not provide managerial interfaces to the underlying data to track changes by specific project contributors.

I present and discuss two options for overtly addressing copyright interests for teams and groups who want to contribute to a project. I discuss some best practices which projects can implement in their operational strategies. I believe the presented solution to be viable in at least 175 countries based on their shared commitment to copyright law via the Bern Convention (1979).

I take the offered solution and present it as applied to the distributed team context – such as the context of team-based lexicon/dictionary building.

3 Mar, 2019 00:00
Honolulu, Hawai’i
Content Mediums:
Hugh Paterson III
Hugh Paterson III
Collaborative Scholar

I specialize in bespoke research at the intersection of Linguistics, Law, Languages, and Technology; specifically utility and life-cycle management for information products in these spaces.