Last week, the European Commission released The New Renaissance
, an expert report on efforts to digitize Europe’s cultural heritage. My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version
, homepage version
) notes that Europe has been particularly aggressive about its digitization efforts, developing Europeana, an online portal currently featuring more than 15 million works of art, books, music, and film, as well as the European Library, which provides access to 24 million pages of full-text scanned by 14 national libraries.
Several European countries have set very ambitious digitization goals. The National Library of the Netherlands has committed to digitizing everything – all Dutch books, newspapers and periodicals dating back to 1470. The National Library of Norway set a similar goal in 2005, setting in motion plans to digitize its entire collection that now includes 170,000 books, 250,000 newspapers, 610,000 hours of radio broadcasts, 200,000 hours of television and 500,000 photographs.
Building on those efforts, the report recommended that public domain works be digitized with public funding and be made freely available for access and re-use. It also called on lawmakers to develop policies to facilitate the digitization of works still subject to copyright protection.
Canada could have attempted something similar years ago by committing to its own national digital library. Library and Archives Canada was given responsibility for the issue but was unable to muster the necessary support for a comprehensive plan. Last year, it published a final report on its national digital information strategy, noting that it â€œbrings to a close LAC’s role as facilitator of the consultations.â€
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