Ethics and Legality in the Digital Arts and Humanities The DARIAH-EU Working Group ELDAH

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Walter Scholger

    Karl-Franzens Universität Graz (University of Graz)

  2. 2. Vanessa Hannesschläger

    OEAW Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften / Austrian Academy of Sciences

  3. 3. Koraljka Kuzman Slogar

    Institute for Ethnology and Folklore

Work text
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Ethical and legal issues in Digital Humanities research
The European Research Infrastructure Consortium "Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities" (DARIAH-EU) promotes open access to methods, data, and tools, and stands for responsible conduct. As an infrastructure for Arts and Humanities researchers, it strives to deal with all issues arising in the quickly progressing domain of digital research. DARIAH's new ethics and legal strategy - e.g. the establishment of a dedicated Open Science Officer and the Working Group on Ethics and Legality in Digital Arts and Humanities (ELDAH) - is an effort to establish openness as a de-facto standard in digital research and a contribution to ensure a high standard of legal and ethical awareness wherever researchers from communities connected to DARIAH are concerned. This should facilitate better access to tools and data for researchers, as well as to recommendations and best practices for the conduct of their research.
ELDAH is dedicated to addressing the needs of the research and education community regarding the topics of legal issues and research ethics (Darling, 2012; Galina, 2017; von Hippel, 2005). In the age of digital information technology and the constant availability of information through the internet, it is not only important to have democratic access to knowledge, but also essential to consider issues of access, transparency, reusability, and attribution. Of particular interest and concern to cultural heritage institutions and humanities scholars alike are issues of copyright on, provision of, and access to digitized source material. There is a recognizable political drive in the European Union to facilitate free and public access to cultural heritage and research data hosted at publicly funded institutions (Council of the European Union, 2016). However, the lack of legal harmonization and the diverse and often unclear national legislations on the use and provision of resources by public cultural heritage or research and education institutions has been prohibiting a much broader engagement. The recent EU regulation on Data Protection (GDPR) also caused a lot of insecurity and, due to lack of information and counseling, prompted frantic activity that often went beyond actual legal requirements and presents significant difficulties to conducting research (Council of the European Union, 2016). Therefore, ELDAH provides reliable information for humanities scholars facing legal questions and uncertainties in their research, not from a legalist but from a community- and practice-oriented perspective.
Beyond this legal scope, issues of ethical research practices and scholarly conduct are central to the Humanities and Social Sciences, perhaps even more so in a largely digital, internet-based research context (McKee/Porter, 2009; Markham/Buchanan, 2012):
"Different ethical issues become salient as the researcher develops research questions, seeks and gains access to individuals and/or information, manages and protects personally identifiable information, selects analytical tools, and represents the data through dissemination, in published reports, conference presentations, or other venues." (Markham/Buchanan, 2012)

A dedicated Working Group
Currently comprising about 40 members from 18 countries, covering a large variety of disciplinary fields, ELDAH produces recommendations (both to the DARIAH management team and the DH community at large), training and information materials on IPR, open licenses and Open Science in general, and offers workshops on these topics to scholars in the context of DARIAH events across Europe. Additionally, ELDAH works in close collaboration with similar groups among the large European research infrastructures - like the Legal and Ethical Issues Committee of CLARIN ERIC (CLIC), the Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA) or the Europeana Networks Association - and pertinent working groups of national organisations - e.g. the Open Science Network Austria (OANA) and the Association for Digital Humanities in German-speaking Countries (DHd) - developing recommendations that will transcend national or infrastructural boundaries.

A common perspective?
This poster will inform the audience about the main activities and topics covered by the ELDAH Working Group. It will present an opportunity to discuss the audience’s questions and concerns regarding legal and ethical challenges of their work, to share recommendations, but also to collect valuable input on the current prevalent concerns of the DH community and to connect with working groups and initiatives on these topics beyond ELDAH’s current Eurocentric scope. Topics like scholarly conduct, data protection and openness are universal themes in digital humanities research culture, and there is a growing demand for a common broader, international perspective.


Council of the European Union (2016). Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data.

Council of the European Union (2019). DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on copyright and related rights in the Digital Single Market and amending Directives 96/9/EC and 2001/29/EC.

Darling, K. (2012). Contracting About the Future: Copyright and New Media.
Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property 10/7: 485–530.

Galina, I. et al. (2017). Copyright and Creator Rights in DH Projects: A Checklist.

von Hippel, E. (2005). Democratizing Innovation.

Klimpel, P.; Weitzmann, J. (2015). Forschen in der digitalen Welt. Juristische Handreichung für die Geisteswissenschaften.
DARIAH-DE Working Papers 12.

Klimpel P. (2013). Free Knowledge Thanks to Creative Commons Licenses. Why a Non-commercial Clause often won’t Serve Your Needs.

Markham, A.; Buchanan, E. (2012). Ethical Decision-Making and Internet Research Recommendations from the AoIR Ethics Working Committee.

McKee, H. A.; Porter, J. E. (2009). The Ethics of Internet Research: A Rhetorical, Case-based Process.

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