June 23, 2006 4:00 AM PDT
Brewster Kahle's modest mission: Archiving everything
- Related Stories
Would Thomas Jefferson have Googled?February 6, 2006
An open-source rival to Google's book projectOctober 26, 2005
Google's battle over library booksOctober 24, 2005
Yahoo to digitize public domain booksOctober 2, 2005
Net archive silences Scientology criticSeptember 24, 2002
Alexa makes the Web historyJuly 9, 1997
(continued from previous page)
Beyond his librarian and archivist role at the Internet Archive, Kahle serves on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and on the national digital strategy advisory board at The Library of Congress. He's also a plaintiff in Kahle v. Gonzales (formerly Kahle v. Ashcroft), a federal lawsuit challenging recent copyright term extensions. Kahle lost in the lower court and has appealed.
"What Brewster has done is extraordinarily significant, because he produced an archive of material that otherwise just wouldn't have existed," says Stanford Law School professor Lawrence Lessig, who spearheaded the Kahle lawsuit. "There have been many collectors of cultural works out there, but only Kahle is collecting the Internet. When he started collecting it, most people were not yet convinced that there was anything there to be collected."
Lessig remembers that during the preparations for the 1999 court challenge, Kahle and his son drove the Internet Archive's Bookmobile from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., to attend the trial. "They stopped at high schools along the way, printing books, cutting and binding them for people to take for free," he says. "That was (Kahle's) way to make tangible what was really at stake in the public domain."
Rick Prelinger, a writer and filmmaker who donated a collection of historical films to the Internet Archive, remembers how easily Kahle recruited him to the cause when they first talked on the phone in 1999. Brewster said he had just been thinking that he wanted films for the Internet Archive, Prelinger says.
"How would you like to put your films online and make them accessible for free?'" recalls Prelinger, who taught for a time at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. "We'd only known each other for five seconds, and he was already suggesting I get involved in the West Coast gift economy."
"To meet Brewster and work with him was a life changing experience," he says. Kahle "thrives on access. He watches the outbound bandwidth figures for the Internet Archive to see how many bits (of data) they are giving away, and that's very exciting to him," Prelinger said. "He's a zealot about bits in and bits out and collecting and disseminating information."
Despite some hurdles, Kahle is an optimistic man. The pieces are in place to accomplish his dream, he says: Internet technology to digitize and distribute content; ideals of universal education; and political will.
"With those, I believe we can build a great library of humankind's thoughts and dreams," he says.
13 commentsJoin the conversation! Add your comment