Free Bitflows conference Vienna

By EDRi · June 16, 2004

One of the highlights of the Free Bitflows conference in Vienna, Austria on 3 and 4 June 2004 was a lecture by Brewster Kahle about the Internet Archive. This digital archive aims at no less than offering universal access to all human knowledge, by collecting digital copies of all old and new public domain books, music, films, software and web-sites. A copy is in San Francisco (US) and a partial copy is in Alexandria (Egypt).

Around 300 BC the classic library of Alexandria contained about 75 percent of all documents that were ever made. Today, the internet archive wishes to secure and disclose a similar percentage of all creative works ever made, but with improved protection against destruction. The final goal of the archive is to have a full copy in 5 or 6 countries and jurisdictions, to be able to survive any war or censorship.

Kahle gave a light-hearted overview of the incredible numbers and amounts that are involved with the plan. Based on the collection of 26 million volumes in the US Library of Congress, he estimated the total amount of books ever made to be around 100 million. To digitise all these volumes, he started the ‘1 million books project’, shipping books to India and China for scanning. The first 100.000 books are currently being digitised for aprox. 10 US dollars per book. Each book is about 1 megabyte when presented in for example MS Word, so the entire collection of the Library of Congress could be stored on 26 Terabytes. Kahle has developed a very smart and extremely low cost storing system, that can store this amount of data for only 60.000 US dollars.

Kahle participated in an interesting panel discussion with Paula le Dieu from the BBC and Istvan Rev from the Open Society Institute in Budapest. Le Dieu explained why the BBC was convinced to open up parts of their archive under creative commons license. In September 2004, the BBC will start to offer natural history items on their website. The license allows people in the UK to use the material for non-commercial use, if they share the same public license. In a brave step, the BCC decided not to use DRM-tactics (technological measures to prevent for example copying), but rely on the license that only allows UK citizens to use the materials. Istvan Rev talked about the early Budapest open access initiative launched in September 2001, that stored propaganda materials broadcasted from the West to Eastern Europe. Currently the Open Society Archives have developed into a valuable human rights archive, that store for example all fingerprints derived from mass grave exhumations in Bosnia.

Internet archive

Open Society Archives Hungary

Free Bitflows conference (03-04.06.2004)