GBS: Digital Public Library Moves Forward

Library Journal reports:

A new effort is under way to create a blueprint for a comprehensive national digital library that will put the country’s cultural heritage only a mouse click away.

The Berkman Center for Internet and Society, a research program at Harvard Law School, announced December 13 that it will administer a collaborative effort whose goal is to create an overarching and open governing structure under which ongoing digitization projects, such as the HathiTrust and others, would willingly work.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation will provide the funding for the exploratory initiative, which is being billed as the “Digital Public Library of America.”

“The idea is to create a big tent where lots of people can work hard toward a public-spirited solution,” John Palfrey, the Faculty Co-Director at the Berkman Center and the Vice Dean of Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School, told LJ. “It’s not a competitive effort. It’s meant to be complementary to its core.”

How nice that a group of people are working to build a “consensus”—including a legal consensus—for digitizing works without participation of the creators of those works or their publishers. ” Preserve cultural heritage” is such a high-sounding term for “no one wants to pay for books but they want to keep their own jobs by digitizing them.”

And, it’s also so nice they are all working to create a LEGAL consensus regarding copyright law without bothering to use the legislative process. Unless, of course, what we are going to see is a bill pushed through Congress for free e-books to libraries—which in practical reality means to all their patrons and the friends of those patrons and every warez site they all upload books to.

I want out of this business. I wish I didn’t have so much inventory, because I can not publish any more books, but I can still lose my shirt if free circulation of my books as e-books means no one buys the print books. Of course, I used offset printing to lower costs for my readers, but if the parasitic little jerks find out they don’t have to pay for anything at all, that will do me no good.

David Ferriero, the archivist of the United States, has offered to host a plenary meeting in the early summer of 2011, according to a press release from the Berkman Center.— Article

In May of 2009 after discovering my work had been digitized by the University of Wisconsin-Google partnership I emailed the other libraries that held copies of my book to get their assurance that they would not digitize it without my permission. At that time Mr. Ferriero was the Andrew W. Mellon Director of the New York Public Libraries, and the person given my email to reply to. He assured me that their copy of my book would not be digitized without my permission.

Douglas Fevens, Halifax, Nova Scotia— The University of Wisconsin, Google, & Me

The SFGate (San Francisco Chronicle) has published the New York Times article above. This morning I left this comment:

An American digital public library is a noble goal if it is built on respect given to the (copy)rights of others, many being from different lands. If it is built on the backs of authors, as the Google Library, now bookstore is, it will be a sham. The article quotes Benjamin Franklin— “Franklin wrote in his autobiography that the growth of lending libraries had played a role not only in educating but also in democratizing American society.”— It maybe of interest to some that the first American [Copyright] Act, entitled “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning by securing the copies of Maps, Charts and Books to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned” applied only to American citizens or permanent residents.(1) A result being that American publishers & printers sold cheap knock offs of British works. I wonder how many treasured volumes in American libraries are actually pirated copies of others work?

(1)Myra Tawfik, “History in the Balance: Copyright and the Access to Knowledge, Page 78-79

Myra Tawfik’s paper can be found here.

A comment by John Wilkin, Executive Director of the HathiTrust to the SFGate article can be found here. I gave his comment the “thumbs down” because the HathiTrust has volumes that were the product of commercial enterprises (e.g. The University of Wisconsin-Google Partnership).

Talking About a Digital Public Library of America, Jennifer Howard, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The planning has a public component as well: The Berkman Center has set up a wiki to which anyone can contribute. “We very much hope that this wiki will be the embodiment of a consensus-based and peer-produced approach,” the center notes on the welcome page.

The question: “Should the DPLA [Digital Public Library of America] even bother adhering to copyright law?” caught my eye at the Legal Issues page of the DPLA wiki.

It’s Time for a National Digital-Library System: But it can’t serve only elites, David H. Rothman, The Chronicle of Higher Education

David H. Rothman is a writer in Alexandria, Va., and founder of TeleRead, a Web site devoted to news and discussion of e-books and related topics. He is also a cofounder of, an informal, nonprofit group working toward a universal national digital-library system. He is the author of six nonfiction books on technology-related topics, as well as The Solomon Scandals, a Washington novel (Twilight Times Books, 2009)

His disclosure statement:

I’m a small Google shareholder, though I was pushing for a well-stocked national digital library years before the company’s birth and am against the proposed Google Book Settlement over what content holders regard as copyright infringement.