04 March 2006

The European Digital Library: Dream, but Don't Touch

With all the brouhaha over the Google Book Search Library Project, it is easy to overlook other efforts directed along similar lines. I'm certainly guilty of this sin of omission when it comes to The European Library, about which I knew nothing until very recently.

The European Library is currently most useful for carrying out integrated searches across many European national libraries (I was disappointed to discover that neither Serbia nor Latvia has any of my books in their central libraries). Its holdings seem to be mainly bibliographic, rather than links to the actual text of books (though there are some exceptions).

However, a recent press release from the European Commission seems to indicate that The European Library could well be transmogrified into something altogether grander: The European Digital Library. According to the release:

At least six million books, documents and other cultural works will be made available to anyone with a Web connection through the European Digital Library over the next five years. In order to boost European digitisation efforts, the Commission will co-fund the creation of a Europe-wide network of digitisation centres.

Great, but it adds:

The Commission will also address, in a series of policy documents, the issue of the appropriate framework for intellectual property rights protection in the context of digital libraries.

Even more ominously, the press release concludes:

A High Level Group on the European Digital Library will meet for the first time on 27 March 2006 and will be chaired by Commissioner Reding. It will brings together major stakeholders from industry and cultural institutions. The group will address issues such as public-private collaboration for digitisation and copyrights.

"Stakeholders from industry and cultural institutions": but, as usual, nobody representing the poor mugs who (a) will actually use this stuff and (b) foot the bill. So will our great European Digital Library be open access? I don't think so.

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