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Label music gives a huge present to US Library of Congress

Universal will donate more than 200,000 master recordings from the '20-40s, to be published on the Web. [13jan11]

The largest music company in the world has just given the largest audio-visual gift ever to one of the largest libraries in the world, the US Library of Congress. Universal will donate more than 200,000 master recordings from the 1920s-1940s to the Library, which will make this rare music available to the public over the Web.

The recordings come from Universal's in-house collection and feature the best existing master copies of Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas" in 1947 and Les Paul doing the "Guitar Boogie." The master recordings currently reside on metal and lacquer discs, with some on mono tape, and they feature plenty of material that was never released from such artists as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong.

While this is of immense historic value, the commercial value for most of it is more limited. An important Library of Congress study found that only 14 percent of pre-1965 recordings are available commercially; even in the age of iTunes, huge quantities of recorded music still can't be purchased.

[...]

To put the donation in context, the Library's Recorded Sound Section currently has around three million total items, so another 200,000 recordings is a significant addition. More significant is the fact that most of those existing three million recordings are noncommercial (the collection includes items like "Tony Schwartz presents a montage of schoolchildren telling the same story in different ways"). The Universal donation is, according the Library, the "first major collection of studio master materials ever obtained."

Read full article on ArsTechnica website.

US Waiting For Godot On Public Domain Day

"Once again, absolutely nothing enters the Public Domain this year". [04jan11]

An article by Mike Masnick on TechDirt.com explains why, contrary to most other countries worldwide, no work of long-deceased authors and artists enters the Public Domain in the USA.

"...Not a single work entered the public domain in the US on January 1st, thanks (yet again) to constant copyright extensions, which include retroactive extensions. Retroactive extensions, of course, make absolutely no sense. If the point of copyright is to act as incentive for the creation of new works, that incentive obviously worked in getting those works created. To then retroactively extend the copyright is to, quite blatantly, go back on the deal, and take away the rights of the public with no recourse or compensation.

[...]

Copyright defenders love to claim that infringement is a form of "theft." Yet, they never seem troubled by the idea that copyright extensions like this have clearly taken away the public's clearly stated rights to make use of these works under the deal that was made with those content creators at the time those works were officially published. It seems to me that taking away such rights from the public is significantly more troubling than someone downloading a song they never would have paid for in the first place."

Interesting enough, so far the article has received more than 120 comments.

Read full article on TechDirt.com.

Google: huge database for public research

A new landscape of possibilities for research and education in the humanities. [17dec10]

With little fanfare, Google has made a mammoth database culled from nearly 5.2 million digitized books available to the public for free downloads and online searches, opening a new landscape of possibilities for research and education in the humanities.

The intended audience is scholarly, but a simple online tool allows anyone with a computer to plug in a string of up to five words and see a graph that charts the phrase’s use over time — a diversion that can quickly become as addictive as the habit-forming game Angry Birds.

“The goal is to give an 8-year-old the ability to browse cultural trends throughout history, as recorded in books,” said Erez Lieberman Aiden, a junior fellow at the Society of Fellows at Harvard. Mr. Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, assembled the data set with Google and spearheaded a research project to demonstrate how vast digital databases can transform our understanding of language, culture and the flow of ideas.

Their study, published in the journal Science, offers a tantalizing taste of the rich buffet of research opportunities now open to literature, history and other liberal arts professors who may have previously avoided quantitative analysis. 'Science' is taking the unusual step of making the paper available online to nonsubscribers.

So far, Google has scanned more than 11 percent of the entire corpus of published books, about two trillion words. The data analyzed in the paper contains about 4 percent of the corpus.

Read full article on The New York Times.

USA: Can We Create a National Digital Library?

Harvard hosted a Conference on a question of vital importance to the US cultural life. [8nov10]

In the Conference opening talk, published on the New York Review of Books, Robert Darnton explains:

«Simple as it sounds, the question is extraordinarily complex. It involves issues that concern the nature of the library to be built, the technological difficulties of designing it, the legal obstacles to getting it off the ground, the financial costs of constructing and maintaining it, and the political problems of mobilizing support for it. [...]

The ambition behind this project goes back to the founding of this country. Thomas Jefferson formulated it succinctly: “Knowledge is the common property of mankind.” He was right—in principle. But in practice, most of humanity has been cut off from the accumulated wisdom of the ages. In Jefferson’s day, only a tiny elite had access to the world of learning. Today, thanks to the Internet, we can open up that world to all of our fellow citizens. We have the technical means to make Jefferson’s dream come true, but do we have the will? [...]

I realize that intellectual property is a complex subject. Instead of raising the vexed question of copyright at this stage, I want to make a different point, one that has to do with the principles behind the founding of our country. [...]

I propose that we dismiss the notion that a National Digital Library of America is far-fetched, and that we concentrate instead on what we can learn from others about issues such as: How can we deal with the problem of copyright and of orphan books, i.e., books whose copyright holders can’t be located? How can we cope with the complexities of metadata—that is, catalog-type information necessary to locate digital texts in the ever-changing environment of cyberspace? How can we find funding and develop a business plan that will resolve the long-term difficulties of collection management and preservation? I hope this meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss these “how” questions. [...]»

Read full article here - and also its follow-up discussion.

Open Data and Re-use in Europe

Free public meeting in France on open-data issues at local level. [28oct10]

Jointly organised by Rennes Metropole, Le Conseil Régional Bretagne, Fing, the PSI Alliance, e-mégalis, GFII and ePSIplatform, the event will address the issue:
"Open Data and Re-use: what is happening at local levels in Europe?"

29th November 9.30 – 17.00 (CET) at Hôtel de Rennes Métropole, 4 avenue Henri Fréville, Rennes, France.

With the focus on national data catalogues it is easy to overlook the potential value of local data for economic, social and democratic benefits. Yet a huge amount is generated locally in the provision of services for citizens. A network of local data initiatives is now opening up and to encourage this we are holding a meeting in Rennes, a city which has taken a lead in opening up local data.

More details, including the meeting agenda and online registration, is available at: epsiplatform.eu.

For more information or any questions or to indicate your interest in participating in one of the panels or as speaker from the floor, please contact:
Pauline Pollard, European Public Sector Information Platform (ePSIplatform) -
rennes [at] epsiplatform.eu

Conference on orphan works at EP

An example of the unsolvable conflict between authors and society. [26oct10]

MEPs Róża Maria Grafin von Thun und Hohenstein, and Tadeusz Zwiefka, in
collaboration with the law firm Wardynski & Partners, will be hosting a
public event: "Orphan works; an example of the unsolvable conflict between the author and society", under the patronage of Doris Pack, MEP, Chairman of the CULT Committee, and Klaus-Heiner Lehne, MEP, Chairman of the JURI Committee.

Orphan works are works the copyright ownership of which cannot be
established. Estimates show that they constitute a significant part of the cultural heritage. Due to lack of the possibility of obtaining consent for their use, as the absence of another solution exists, they lie idle and wait to be used. The subject of the discussion shall be legally available methods of restitution to the society of orphan works, while preserving the interests of persons who are entitled to remuneration as a result of such restitution.

Tuesday, 16th November 2010, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.

European Parliament
60 rue Wiertz/Wiertzstraat, Brussels, Belgium
ROOM JAN 6Q2 - entrance through Spinelli building from the Luxembourg Square side.

Free participation but limited seating. RSVP by 3rd November 2010 to: Aleksandra Oleśniak: aleksandra.olesniak [at] wardynski.com.pl

Doing good with open data

Apps4Finland, a competition & awards to make good use of public data. [5oct10]

Apps4Finland is a competition for functional web applications, widgets, mashups, iPhone apps, Facebook apps, and other digital utilities that, make use of some public data and facilitate the collaboration between citizens and public organizations. The idea is to "...embrace the emergence of new ideas and collaboration that make Finland a better place for everyone."

Apps4Finland has three categories: two for implementations, one for independent developers and another one for companies and other organizations. The third category is focused on the "idea" itself.

The Awards ceremony is scheduled for the 7th of October 2010 during the MindTrek Conference, in Tampere, an event with international experts in the fields of start-up, business development, social media.

More details at http://www.verkkodemokratia.fi/apps4finland.

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