Monday, December 01, 2008
Europeana Stutters into Life
Europeana, the European digital cultural database launched this month was immediately swamped and brought down by the demand on the service. The service now plans to be back ‘bigger and better’ by mid-December.
Europeana contains 2 million digitised books, audio and film material, photos, paintings, maps, manuscripts, newspapers and archival documents from more than 1,000 European cultural organisations such as that British Library. It plans to have over 10 million items in its database by 2010.
The main driver of the service according to a European Commission spokes person is to, ‘help save orphan books from oblivion...Forty per cent of the British Library is orphan - it’s not just a small phenomenon. There is a twentieth century cultural black hole as there is a huge amount copyrighted and orphan books. The question is what can one do about these out of print works? We may lose them from the cultural heritage.”
So we have a ‘cultural’ land grab by the establishment of Europe. We can’t help but say that appears no different than libraries sharing material today and lending this to users. As long as it stays within a ‘fair use’ remit and is not commercially exploited then this is different to the commercial land grab by Google and the US Orphan Act which are about legitimising the commercial adoption of orphans.
The question is whether others will see it the same or as legitimising the Great Book Robbery being performed by Google.