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Digitizing Europe’s Cultural Heritage

The European Commission launched Europeana in 2008, in order to create a digital archive of cultural materials. Jennifer Baker reports that Europeana currently offers free access to more than 15 million digitized books, maps, newspapers, paintings, photographs and other artifacts. Those involved with the project are aiming to turn Europeana into the main digital resource for cultural materials in Europe and is going up against Google.

On Monday, the Commission released the latest report, “the New Renaissance”. For this report, three experts were asked to give constructive suggestions as to how the Commission can trigger a “Digital Renaissance” in Europe. According to the New York Times, the experts encouraged the Commission to turn Europeana into ” the central online reference point for European cultural heritage.” The experts also advised the Commission to limit ownership of digitized materials to seven years.

The experts were really saying that Google should not be the reference point for European cultural heritage. Google Books is seen as the main competitor to Europeana, despite making major concessions in a round of negotiations last year regarding Google Books. Google can only digitize public domain material in Europe (pre-1870 works), and libraries are allowed to commercially reuse Google scans after only fifteen years (see EurActiv).

By shortening the period from 15 years to 7, the Commission is making further attempts to prevent Google from having some kind of monopoly on cultural resources.

Read the story at The New York Times.