June 26, 2006

Digital Libraries

Posted in copyright, EU, fair use, globalisation, internet law, politics at 3:39 am by thelawthoughts

The EU is establishing a digital library, with cooperation from museums and libraries around Europe.

I am interested in the difference in reaction between this and Google's attempt. I have never even heard of the EU effort in the media. Why don't Europeans care? Why do Americans care so much?

I'm tempted to put it down to a European-sharing stereotype, which is interested in shared culture and cultural heritage, versus an American individual-centred protection of wealth regime.

It must be more than that, but I just can't see it.



  1. Dash Brannigan said,

    Why did Ptolomey II care? Because it’s important. It’s not so much preservation of one culture it’s the preservation of everyone’s journey.

    Newton once said “If I have seen further it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants”. This way we make sure the giants are never lost. See.. very important to everyone, inspite of the fact they may not realise it, believe in it or care.

    Still not sure if I agree with your statements about Europeans vs. Americans, what’s that got to do with the price of Kant, Descartes, Da Vinci or Wren.

  2. I’m just thinking of things like moral rights, which exist far more strongly in Europe than the US. There is much higher recognition of cultural heritage and preservation in Europe than in the US.

    That is, of course, just my anecdotal opinion. I haven’t done a research paper or anything, but I am saying there don’t seem to be too many publishers knocking the Court doors down to file lawsuits against the EU, that’s all.

    There must be a reason for it.

  3. Oh, sorry, also I meant to clarify that when I said ‘why don’t Europeans care’ I meant why don’t they seem to be worried about the infringement of their copyright.

    That’s where my argument about sharing culture came from. I meant to say, why aren’t Europeans getting worked up about what is surely an attempt to ‘infringe’ copyright on a massive scale, just as is Google’s effort.

    My perspective is similar to yours. It is vital to preserve information and allow it to be disseminated as freely as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I proof read for Project Gutenberg. I just couldn’t work out why there was such acceptance of the European effort, where there is such violent and loud opposition in America.

  4. Dash Brannigan said,

    Funny story. The original library of Alexandria apparently used to borrow books from all over the known world. They would take the book and in the space of a day or two would copy the book and give it back to the owner. However, the artisans working in the library were that good, that they would copy the original so exactly that they gave the owner back the copy keep the original and no one was the wiser.

    For the European digital library copyright actually becomes a bit of a non-issue. If you think about it they have around 2000 years of historic documents to digitize. Tell me if I’m wrong but copyright is a finite, something like death of the author plus 50 years. So can’t see how there will be copyright issues when digitizing the drawings of Christopher Wren or the works of Newton or any other major or minor work.

    They have plenty of work to get on with and if they start from the beginning all of the stuff that is still under copyright now will expire by the time they get to it. Plenty of work for the old book nerds to do.

    Also I think you are rather tough on the Americans. We are talking about one country that is just over 200 hundred years old, compare that to ones which are over 1200 years old. Having more history to protect would certainly give you a much different perspective on its preservation… along with all the yummy tourist dollars that go with it.

    However, I promise you this. From this day on no important document in the US or Europe will be totally destroyed… unless they forget to back up their hard drive.

  5. I think I blogged about this once, but apparently they also ‘borrowed’ from the Greeks the only copy of the full works of Aeschylus. They were so excited that they thought the loan fee of 15 talents of gold (maybe silver)(a HUGE amount of money) was worth keeping the document.

    Trouble was, they didn’t copy it themselves, to keep it scarce. After the fall of the Roman Empire, which took custody of this document, it fell into the hands of a bishop who thought it was blasphemous and had it burned. If he weren’t already 1500 years dead, I would strangle him.

    You make a good point about out-of-copyright works, I think a large portion of stuff (46%) will come from museums and library archives, which could very well be out of copyright works. 19% is to come from publishers and rights holders, whereas I think a very big whack of Google Book content is going to be ripped straight from copyrighted works.

    The reason I can’t see why this kind of project is a problem is that I don’t think publishers will lose that kind of money. I buy a ton of books, but I also would download a hell of a lot more that I would never spend money on. It is the same argument for/against P2P music downloads, I guess.

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