The Open Transcription Policy

In a large collaborative project such as ours, we have many transcribers working on the one transcript: typically, one makes a first transcript, a second corrects it, a third corrects the corrected version, and so on, often as many as six times. In this situation, the universities at which each transcriber is situated may claim copyright over the work of that transcriber. Where the transcribers are from different universities (as is often the case), then we may have two or more universities each claiming copyright over the one transcript.

This means that each subsequent scholar who wishes to use the transcripts in any way would require copyright clearance from each university involved. Ownership of most of our transcripts is indeed shared by at least two universities, so this is a real concern. Further, the more scholars who work on the transcripts, the more institutions might claim copyright, and the worse the situation would become. For any one transcript, the difficulties of untangling the copyright situation would be so great as to discourage any scholarly work on them. Further, any one university could effectively hold the transcripts to ranson: it would take only one of the copyright holders to refuse to agree to publication to freeze everything.

This appears to us an intolerable situation. Immense effort has gone into the making of these transcripts, over a long period. We can see too that we are only at the beginning of the process. Later scholars will want to begin with what we have done, and add information to the transcripts (for example, on detail of scribal letter forms, or layout) for their own purposes. We want to make it possible for this to happen.

It was in response to this, and with the model of the Open Source software movement in mind, that we agreed on the Open Transcription Policy. The main features of this are as follows:

  1. Copyright of the transcripts remains owned by the creators of the original transcripts, or their universities
  2. The copyright holders permit free downloading, use, alteration and republication of the transcripts by anyone subject to the following conditions:
    1. If the files are altered, the changes must be noted in the file header and they must be republished freely under the same terms as this policy
    2. Anyone who wishes to include the files in a paid-for publication must contact the original copyright holders for permission. In this case, the usual copyright provisions for licencing, etc, will prevail
    3. There will be a header attached to each file detailing this policy, the ownership of the copyright, and all changes made to the file. Each file must be distributed with this header.
    4. Republication and modification of these files must be in an appropriate context and manner, consistent with the research aims of their original creation.

As a formal legal agreement, we are using the Creative Commons 'Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5' licence, available in summary at (full legal code at

As of 23 May 2006: all but one of the partners and copyright holders in the Project has given informal agreement to the Open Transcription Policy. We are currently seeking formal agreements with all involved, preparatory to lodging the transcripts in the Oxford Text Archive.


Revised 23 May 2006