Announcing the Open Content Alliance

  • Posted October 2nd, 2005 at 9:02 pm by Yahoo! Search
  • Categories: Guest Bloggers

From time to time we’ve invited guest bloggers to write on the Yahoo! Search blog. Today we welcome Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. We asked Brewster if he’d like to introduce the Open Content Alliance.

Is Open Content the next step in the traditions of Open Source and an Open Network? Many people seem to think so (and wouldn't it be great?). Working with libraries, government institutions, archives, technology companies, web companies-- and we all are saying the same thing-- it is time to have more great material available on the Internet and to be able to have it be open and free.

The opportunity before all of us is living up to the dream of the Library of Alexandria and then taking it a step further-- Universal access to all knowledge. Interestingly, it is now technically doable. Then the question became-- is it in the interest of enough people and institutions to get there? Some hang-ups have been around costs, rights, and guidelines for sharing. All of these things were worked out for their domains by Internet folks and open source folks in the last few decades. But how are we going build a system that has everything available to everyone?

I am jazzed to say that a group of organizations is starting an Open Content Alliance to try out answers by joining new and existing collections. We are looking for more contributors and helpers. We are starting with a set of principles.

To kick this off, Internet Archive will host the material and sometimes helps with digitization, Yahoo will index the content and is also funding the digitization of an initial corpus of American literature collection that the University of California system is selecting, Adobe and HP are helping with the processing software, University of Toronto and O’Reilly are adding books, Prelinger Archives and the National Archives of the UK are adding movies, etc. We hope to add more institutions and fine tune the principles of working together.

Initial digitized material will be available by the end of the year.

So the costs are mostly being borne by the host institutions based on their own fundraising or business models. The cost of digitization is sometimes offset by a different party (in the case of American Lit– Yahoo!). We think this can scale to millions of books movies and audio recordings.

Yahoo! has been great to work with on this because they get it, and have substantial abilities to cause things to happen. I find it interesting with how enduring a company’s culture is. Jerry Yang and David Filo’s personalities are still quite evident in the company today.

The rights issues come in many flavors, but our guiding principle is to offer high-resolution, downloadable, reusable files of the public domain. When we are dealing with in-copyright materials, the Internet Archive has been leveraging the creative commons licenses to great effect. In-copyright issues remain, but at least we can get substantial work going on the public domain.

We believe that donors should have the option to restrict the bulk re-hosting of a substantial part of a collection. This seems fair and is similar to the Creative Commons Sampling license. Interestingly University of California and Yahoo have decided to not put any restrictions. So if another library wants to re-host these on their website, or another search engine wants to integrate them into their page flipping system, they are welcome to. This is so great’let’s let the public domain stay public and build business models on in-print materials.

To be clear, the public domain works in the Open Content Alliance can be “borrowed” in bulk for build navigation services, do research on, and the like. Bits and pieces of the public domain collections can be re-used and re-interpreted. If someone wants to print and binding a book and sell it on– go nuts, if they want to make it into an audio book and post it on the web– go for it (we will even supply the hosting for this), basically let’s have a blast building on the classics of humankind.

On October 25th we will be demonstrating some of the new bookscanning and partner technologies.

If anyone is interesting in helping with this, please contact us at oca at archive dot org.

Thank you!

Founder, Digital Librarian Internet Archive

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