The Bloodsucker Award, July 2016 – the Royal Institute of British Architects

In my last post, I quoted the Tate Gallery catalogue for Thomas Jones’ 1777 painting of the excavations of the Roman house in the Villa Negroni.  This referred to drawings and a plan by a certain Thomas Hardwick, in the “RIBA collection”.

Well!  Thanks to Google, I have discovered what the “RIBA” might be – it is the Royal Institute of British Architects.    I quickly found one of Thomas Hardwick’s drawings here. But to my surprise, this seems to be a commercial site, run by the RIBA.

Also online was a low-resolution drawing of the floor plan of the house, at the same site here.  The image online is too small to read the scale (in palma Romani).  There are also letters on the image – but no key, so I assume that the information must be elsewhere in the papers.

This is rather sad.  I thought that we were past the stage at which petty officials in national bodies tried to extort small but prohibitive sums of cash from members of the public who wanted to use them on ordinary blogs or websites.  Everybody knows that people like me have no revenue stream, so we aren’t going to buy these things.  And anyway, there is actually no copyright on items this old.  But it seems that the news has not reached the RIBA.

I did follow the prompts, to see what they would demand.  Note how this makes clear that I am just some guy.

How much do I think you are worth, boy?
How much do I think you are worth, boy?

From this I find that the RIBA – assuming it is them – want me to pay them $150 for a licence to use the image.  How kind.  Oh, and that “license” lasts only for five years.

No, thank you.  Instead I shall do something that I have not done for some years.  I shall award them the Bloodsucker Award.

For newer readers, this rare award has not been given in some years now.  It is given only to those organisations who adopt stupid, greedy, pointless dog-in-the-manger attitudes to the dissemination of knowledge.  The criterion is that they demand money to permit access to material that they exist to preserve for the nation; that the material is of no actual commercial value; and that the demand effectually serves to prevent knowledge, while raising no money.

Gentlemen … we have a winner.

Awarded: the July 2016 Bloodsucker Award goes to the Royal Institute of British Architects, for obstructing public access to, and knowledge of, the papers and drawings of the 18th century architect Thomas Hardwick.

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