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.

Naked greed at the Bodleian: the August 2009 Bloodsucker award

I’m in Oxford, and have just been to Duke Humphrey’s library at the Bodleian to examine the 1648 volume of Combefis containing a fragment of Eusebius’ Quaestiones.  The reference I have is good, the book is a folio printed text, and I need copies of half a dozen pages.

But I’ve come away without any.  Why?  Because I cannot bring myself to be robbed by these greedy bastards.

The Bodleian will only do “digital scans” — i.e. photographs.  These, as we all know, are basically free.  You click a button and that is it.  Price for ‘bitonal’ – what you and I know as black-and-white — is 29p per photo, 600 dpi.  That is steep, but not impossible.  But of course when the paper is old, with black and white you get spots and wrinkles everywhere.  So that’s really no good.

The next option up is greyscale.  Of course that costs them not a penny more.  But they want, wait for it, 3.87 GBP ($6 or thereabouts) per photo.  That’s the price of changing one setting on their camera.  Greyscale would probably cover my need, but I’m not paying that.

Colour is even worse; 17.20 GBP – around $27.  Again, it costs them nothing more.

This is unconscionably greedy.  Were I of the mentality of Thomas Wise, I  think I might be minded to just tear the pages out.  I have no doubt that some readers will do just this.  Greedy libraries get damaged books, and I have seen books at the Bodleian so treated.

Apparently a certain Allan James is head of imaging, and so probably responsible.  If you know him, tell him what you think of him.

This naked greed — to the point of rendering work impossible — qualifies the Bodleian for the Bloodsucker Award, which is duly awarded to those whose lust for money is indulged to such an extent as to destroy the mission of the library.

May 2009 Bloodsucker Award – the German Bible Society

I am pleased to announce a winner for the Bloodsucker Award this month — the German Bible Society! 

Their successful entry was their emails demanding that various open-source projects which use the 10-year old morphologised Greek New Testament be abandoned, on the grounds that they “own” the text of the Greek New Testament.

When I announced this award, I described the criterion as follows:

I will award it, ad hoc, to institutions in receipt of state funding which in order to make money violate their primary directive; to make books available and promote learning.

I don’t know whether the GBS receives state money, although in Germany religious bodies often do.  But it does enjoy charitable status in order to promote learning and study of the scriptures, and so falls within the general area — abuse of public funding in order to make money instead of doing its job.