Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, June 20, 2005

Brewster Kahle on OA to digital books

Michael Rogers, Turning books into bits, MSNBC, June 19, 2005. Excerpt: 'Several years ago journalist John Lenger told a remarkable story in the Columbia Journalism Review about teaching a journalism class at Harvardís extension school. He asked his young students to write a story about a Harvard land deal that occurred in 1732, but after a week of research, most came back with almost nothing substantial to report. The problem: They had done most of their research using the Internet, walking right past Harvardís library and archives, where the actual information could be found. When Lenger questioned their research methods, one student replied that she assumed that anything that was important in the world was already on the Internet. When I told that story recently to Brewster Kahle, the founder of the San Francisco non-profit Internet Archive, he shook his head: "When we were growing up," he said, "we had great libraries. But for kids today, the Internet is their library. We are giving them an instantly accessible resource that is much worse than what we grew up with." But Kahle, along with Google, Amazon and a clutch of prestigious libraries worldwide are all working to change that: digitizing thousands of books every day, building a global library where every manner of content lives online....But making copies can also be a problem. One big hurdle for the universal Internet library is copyright....As a result, a coalition of academic publishers recently protested Google's current library digitization project, seeking reassurance that Google's digital copies wonít someday be used to replace demand for the physical copies....Over the past twenty years, however, Congress has significantly lengthened the period that books remain under copyright ó and more importantly, those books now remain in copyright without any further action by the author. As a result, there are hundreds of thousands of "orphan books," still in copyright but whose authors may have died or lost interest in their creations. In earlier years, those books would have moved into the public domain, but now they technically remain under copyright ó meaning that libraries and universities are very cautious about making digital copies as they may find themselves sued for infringement. Kahle is currently pursuing a court challenge to clarify the question of digitizing such orphan books. "Much of the 20th century's media is locked up," he says. "Very little is being exploited because of the copyright explosion."...As the technologists digitize, librarians will organize --and somewhere out in the future will finally arrive what Kahle calls "the library we owe our children."'