October 3, 2005 8:56 AM PDT

Europe aims to rival Google with digital library

The European Commission isn't about to sit back and let Google have control over digitizing the world's information--it's planning to turn Europe's "historical and cultural heritage into digital content."

According to an EC announcement on Friday, the aim of the project is to digitize and preserve records of Europe's heritage--including books, film fragments, photographs, manuscripts, speeches and music--and make it available online to all European citizens. To make this happen, the European Union is proposing high-level cooperation between the member states and has set a deadline of Jan. 20, 2006, for first comments on the plans.

"Without a collective memory, we are nothing and can achieve nothing. It defines our identity, and we use it continuously for education, work and leisure," said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding.

The Commission acknowledged that the process of making the resources in Europe's libraries and archives available on the Internet "is not straightforward." It identified three key areas for action: digitization, online accessibility and digital preservation. The Commission also noted that several such initiatives are already under way within Europe, including the Collect Britain project in the United Kingdom, which is backed by the British Library and partly funded by the U.K.'s National Lottery.

The issue of collecting the heritage of the world, and in particular its literature, has come into sharp focus recently with Google's efforts to amass the world's knowledge in one search engine. That plan hit legal problems last month when Google was accused of "a plain and brazen violation of copyright law" by a group representing thousands of authors in the U.S.

Yahoo is set to announce Monday that it's working with the Internet Archive, the University of California and others on a project to digitize books in archives around the world and make them searchable through any Web search engine and downloadable for free.

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London. CNET News.com's Elinor Mills contributed to this report from San Francisco.

6 comments

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Unite
It'd be much simpler if EU, Google, Yahoo and other projects united.
Posted by Rusdude (170 comments )
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Unite
It'd be much simpler if EU, Google, Yahoo and other projects united.
Posted by Rusdude (170 comments )
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eulibrary
www.eulibrary.com
www.eulibraries.com
Posted by spytrdr (13 comments )
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eulibrary
www.eulibrary.com
www.eulibraries.com
Posted by spytrdr (13 comments )
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They'll have to revise copyright laws
If they want whatever they are doing to be legal in their countries, they would probably have to revise their copyright laws. Otherwise almost everything written in the past century would not fit legally in their archives.

So iff this becomes something that the European Union is really involved in, their own legislators would become more aware of the need to reform copyright laws in ways that don't allow publishers to hold works hostage for (almost) eternity. And that would be good. Eventually legilators would have to rethink these laws and change them in ways that allow the "preservation of heritage" to commence in less than a century after it is created, while still allowing the very few who can actually profit from creation actually grab their bucket full of bucks (or Euros) while they can.

I don't think there is a need for just one archive. Competition is good, and it is also good for preservation to have several copies in several places. If the EU actually goes forward with this and creates the legal envioronment needed for their project to be successful, American legilators would have to respond with legislation that would allow American heritage to compete. This would probably be done the American way, i.e., by giving the private sector the right legal tools and environment (i.e. making the right legal environment to allow Google and Yahoo etc. to create their own archives and compete with each other and with the European project, and with other projects that would arise elsewhere (east Asia?)).
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They'll have to revise copyright laws
If they want whatever they are doing to be legal in their countries, they would probably have to revise their copyright laws. Otherwise almost everything written in the past century would not fit legally in their archives.

So iff this becomes something that the European Union is really involved in, their own legislators would become more aware of the need to reform copyright laws in ways that don't allow publishers to hold works hostage for (almost) eternity. And that would be good. Eventually legilators would have to rethink these laws and change them in ways that allow the "preservation of heritage" to commence in less than a century after it is created, while still allowing the very few who can actually profit from creation actually grab their bucket full of bucks (or Euros) while they can.

I don't think there is a need for just one archive. Competition is good, and it is also good for preservation to have several copies in several places. If the EU actually goes forward with this and creates the legal envioronment needed for their project to be successful, American legilators would have to respond with legislation that would allow American heritage to compete. This would probably be done the American way, i.e., by giving the private sector the right legal tools and environment (i.e. making the right legal environment to allow Google and Yahoo etc. to create their own archives and compete with each other and with the European project, and with other projects that would arise elsewhere (east Asia?)).
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
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