Robbo sez, "The Cambridge Digital Library has posted Sir Issac Newton's notebook which he used as an undergraduate at Trinity College in the 1660's. It can be viewed, page by page, in its entirety and is a fantastic glimpse into the scribbling and doodling thought processes of the man."
Sadly, these images are licensed under CC noncommercial, which means that Cambridge is asserting a copyright over these ancient manuscripts. UK law does make some provision for asserting a copyright in photos of public domain works, though to do so certainly runs contrary to the ethic of scholarship that the Cambridge name evokes.
However, readers in the USA should know that these images are not in copyright there, and they could be downloaded and reused in any way, in keeping with the principle of a robust public domain.
Given that I live in the UK, I have not included any images from the manuscript here.
The argument for asserting copyrights in public domain works is that the public interest is best served by taking public money to acquire and maintain national cultural treasures, then selling access to them, and using the money to reduce the amount that the public pays for future operations.
I understand and reject that argument. A real public domain in national treasures allows for a much broader range of uses and reproductions than the limited, noncommercial, no-derivatives license permits, and these uses would benefit our public life.
I applaud the Cambridge Library's initiative in making its works available to the public, and in adopting CC licenses, but I wish they would adopt a programme of making Britain's ancient treasures truly free. Read the rest