Copyright Reform Central to Digital Library Development
“Traditional physical libraries, while indispensable in modern societies, suffer from the fragility of their contents, the scarcity of their shelf space, the inefficiency of their search and retrieval systems, and the exclusivity of their access policies. Libraries safeguard the culture and history of civilizations, provide free or reduced-price access to millions of books as a public good, and empower visitors to participate more fully in society and enrich their personal and creative lives. At the same time, physical libraries are vulnerable to war, revolution, and natural disasters, all of which together claimed well over 100 million books in the twentieth century alone.
“With the widespread use of personal computers and the Internet, it has finally become feasible to create open access, efficiently searchable, infinitely reproducible digital libraries on the scale of the world’s great physical libraries. Since the popularization of the World Wide Web in the 1990s, digital libraries have “exploded” in number and diversity. But the creation of universal digital libraries is still proceeding unacceptably slowly. Millions of Internet users who look to the Web as their “information source of first resort” are not accessing the best that world civilization has to offer. In the absence of digital access, many great works of literature and social commentary cannot be electronically searched for relevance to readers.
“This article will detail an agenda of copyright reforms to enable the rapid digitization and widespread dissemination of books, periodicals, and audiovisual materials, particularly those that are or should be in the public domain. As several high-profile disputes involving Google, the Internet Archive, and other digital libraries have illustrated, the potential of digital technology to archive and ensure easy access to all the world’s knowledge is being artificially impeded by overbroad statutory and judicial restraints on the Internet-enabled distribution of once-copyrighted material. The current regime for copyright protection of written and recorded works threatens to impede the building of universal digital libraries, especially cooperatively-produced open source and public domain libraries such as Project Gutenberg, and private projects to digitize and index entire libraries of books, such as Google Print.”
Hannibal Travis. Building Universal Digital Libraries: An Agenda for Copyright Reform. SSRN. Aug. 25, 2005.
CopyCense™: K. Matthew Dames on the law, business, and technology of digital content. A business venture of Seso Digital LLC.