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EU warns of digital dark ages

by on13 January 2011

Barbarians are coming
A new report written for the European Commission has called on member states to take more responsibility for the digitisation of Europe's cultural heritage if it is to avoid a "digital Dark Age.”

German national library head Elisabeth Niggeman, advertising chief Maurice Levy and Belgian author Jacques de Decker, have called for a much greater focus on the EU's online library Europeana and the fostering of competitors to Google.

The report said that Europe cannot afford to be inactive and wait, or leave it to one or more private players to digitise its common cultural heritage. Google's exclusivity agreements on the material it has digitised from the EU's libraries need to be brought down from the current 15 years to just seven years, the report said. It called for a fairer and more balanced approach to private sector involvements.

All of Europe's public domain masterpieces should be available on Europeana by 2016, with the aim of making the site become the reference point for European culture online, the report's writers recommend. Additionally, EU member states should also make public funding for digitisation projects conditional on free accessibility of the digitised material through Europeana, they say.

"Member states, Europe's cultural institutions, the European Commission and other stakeholders will all have to take up their responsibilities in order to ensure that Europe's citizens and economy fully benefit from the potential of bringing Europe's cultural heritage online. Our goal is to ensure that Europe experiences a digital Renaissance instead of entering into a digital Dark Age," the report warns.

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