By April 2013, the Digital Public Library of America should be up and running. With this announcement, Robert Darnton opened a recent talk about DPLA sponsored by Harvard Library Strategic Conversations.
Darnton reviewed DPLA’s brief history, including its origin at a meeting at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute on 1 October 2010, its successful coalition of foundations committed to providing financial support, its appointment of a steering committee, and its selection of John Palfrey as the steering committee’s chair. Six “workstreams” have been designed to arrive at consensus-driven plans in the following areas:
- Audience & Participation
- Content & Scope
- Financial/Business Models
- Legal Issues
- Technical Aspects
To join a workstream listserv, consult the appropriate web page.
Darnton insisted that DPLA was not simply a response to Google, though DPLA is open to working with Google and has extended invitations to that effect. He provided an incisive history of Google Book Search’s legal troubles, and noted that DPLA has much to learn from that history.
Next, John Palfrey (chair of the DPLA steering committee, and author of Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives), outlined some of DPLA’s goals, though he conceded that the exact nature of the DPLA was still be determined:
- constructing a creative and technologically sophisticated learning environment beyond that created by e-books. This involves imaginative work by architects, programmers, catalogers, users, and and just about anyone else prepared to think innovatively.
- considering the following elements that will shape the still indistinct and ever-evolving nature of DPLA:
- code will be free and open source
- metadata will aggregate existing data and create additional data. It has already arrived at an agreement to network with Europeana, Europe’s digitized knowledge-sharing platform.
- content will include all media types
- tools and services will facilitate public innovation. Palfrey provided as an example the use of a “scanabego,” a truck with scanning tools that would be driven across the country to local historical societies, offering to digitize their records in exchange for linking those records to DPLA.
- DPLA’ community will be widespread and participatory. According the DPLA web site, “DPLA will actively support the community of users and developers that want to reuse and extend its content, data, and metadata.”
In the discussion that followed the presentation, one of the most interesting comments was Charles Nesson’s description of a Digital Registry Project to address the copyright issues that plagued Google Books. The Registry seeks pro bono commitments from major law firms “to defend the copyright status determinations of major cultural institutions such as libraries and universities” (see the memo available on Charles Nesson’s web site.) According to the DPLA web site,
The objective of the Digital Registry Project is to create a comprehensive registry to undergird digital exploitation of intellectual property—for personal, educational, or commercial use. This vision encompasses all copyrighted works, all orphan works, and all works in the public domain. The Digital Registry seeks to kick start the registry process by beginning with those works that belong no one and therefore belong to everyone: the public domain. This registry is intended to be a simple and unassailable starting point for all larger registries.