Norway Digitizing All Norwegian Books, Regardless of Copyright Status


credit: Hans-Petter-Fjeld-cc-by-sa

Norway is taking on a daunting and liberalizing task: It is creating a digital collection of all the nation's books, newspapers, television broadcasts, and every other piece of media they can get their hands on. Significantly, even copyrighted materials will become more accessible.

The National Library of Norway, located in Oslo and operating under the Ministry of Culture, hopes to create a digital "memory bank by providing a multimedia knowledge centre focusing on archiving and distribution," and provide easy access to "many different types of content ranging from the Middle Ages through to the present day." The organization's website adds that "the digital objects are enriched with metadata and sustainable identifiers which will increase the opportunities for archiving, use and reuse over the next millennium."

The library has already digitized an estimated 235,000 books, 240,000 pages of handwritten manuscripts, 4,000 posters, 740,000 hours of radio, 310,000 hours of television, 7,000 films, 7,000 records, and 8,000 audiotapes. Still, officials anticipate it will take 20-30 years to become current on the task.

Anybody in the world can read and download works that are not covered by copyright. To some extent, works still protected by copyright will also be accessible. Although Business Insider and The Verge report that any copyrighted will be accessible if one is using a Norwegian IP address, that does not seem to be exactly accurate. Rather, specifically 20th century copyrighted works will require the appropriate address.

What about documents from the 21st century? "The entire digital collection shall be available for research and documentation on the National Library of Norway's premises," according to the official library website.

The role of copyright laws, their implementation, and their abuses are contestable subjects. Norway's program does not provide a perfect solution or route there. The fact that "the Norwegian Legal Deposit Act requires that all published content, in all media, be deposited with the National Library of Norway" may rightfully irk those who would rather not be coerced by their government.

Still, The Atlantic's Alexis C. Madrigal humorously suggests that this archive ensures Norway's culture a certain longevity over America's in case of an apocalyptic event.

Tech writer Glyn Moody offers a more serious approval of Norway's move and gives his opinion on the problems of many current copyright laws. He writes for Techdirt:

Excessive copyright… not only prevents today's artists from building on the work of their recent forebears -- something that occurred routinely until intellectual monopolies were introduced in recent centuries -- but it even jeopardizes the preservation and transmission of entire cultures because of publishers' refusal to allow copyright to move with the times by permitting large-scale digitization and distribution of the kind envisaged in Norway.

Reason's own Nick Gillespie, Jesse Walker, and others have covered the cumbersome issue of copyrights as well.

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  1. Well, that's one way of looking at it. Another is that Norway is just taking stuff because it can. Being the government and everything.

      1. Fordi Fuck You Det er derfor.

    1. What the government giveth the government takes away.

      Copyright only exists in the first place because of government fiat.

      Its simply a policy intended to increase the benefits of media creation by offering incentives to create media. If those incentives are not working, it makes sense to revisit the conceptual underpinnings of copyright and make changes (unlike the US which simply believes in doubling down every hand).

      1. OTOH - since these things were created under the old copyright system, there is a financial value associated with them under that system - destroying that is as much a taking as removing the medallion system for NYC cabs would be.

        1. Except the medallion system was a violation of individual rights whereas copyright IS an individual right.

          All private property is intellectual property.

          1. You didn't think of that!

          2. I am with Bentham, natural rights are nonsense upon stilts. Only a consequentialist approach can justify policy imho, and copyright just makes the cultural landscape poorer.

          3. How is a medallion an *individual right* - the only value of the medallion is due to government edict?

      2. You can make the same argument about any form of property.

        I don't like the current state of IP law, either, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

        1. The original "23 years + 23 more if you re-register" was not too bad a system. The current one is corporate welfare.

          1. What, you don't like life + one billion years?

            1. After the 46 years, they should renew for 7 years, with a payment of $1 million. Then every 7 years, it doubles. In 70 years. it'd be $512 million. I doubt anyone except maybe Disney would take up that offer.

              1. It's thanks to Disney that we ever extended it in the U.S. in the first place.

                1. Not sure about that. We were going to have to harmonize with Europe in the wake of Berne. But it is really aggravating arguing with strong copyright proponents who refuse to see the different paradigms behind U.S./U.K. copyright law (incentivizing new creative works) and European copyright law (droit moral).

                  I can, barely, if I squint, see why a life estate makes sense in the U.S. for copyright. Life + 75 years is absolutely rank.

          2. Wasn't it 14 years + 14 more if you re-register?

        2. Not so much - IP is one of those things I can take from you and yet you still have it.

          The only reason you have the ability to monetize it is *specifically* because of government fiat - a copyright-holder is basically a government created monopoly.

    2. Are you owed a government enforced copyright monopoly?

    3. ^This is exactly right. However you are hereby kicked out of the Libertarian Hipster Club, as one of the requirements for membership is that you have your head up your ass when it comes to intellectual property rights.

      Because if you spend years writing a novel, it's not really property, it's just a bunch of information yearning to be free!

      Why won't you let the information be free?

      1. I think we're going to have to recognize that IP, like a minimal payment (instead of the current welfare mess), is a *good idea* - but its not supported by core libertarian ideal which trend towards anarchism and not minarchism.

  2. I think this is just there way of having to buy only one copy of Call of Duty for the entire country.

    1. I'm willing to bet that's what the NSA did for Operation Video Game Jerk Off.

  3. What percentage of Norwegians are in favor of vs. against this? NEEDZ MOAR POLLZ!!!!

  4. IP law protects you from thought-crime. A lot of pragmatism floating around on this board.

  5. This would probably be NSFW in Norway, but I wonder if you could even view it there. Obvious from the link, but it's Anders Breivik's manifesto.


    Any Norwegians around to try this? And please send some NSFW Norwegians swimsuit links in return. Skipping over the copyrights problem for a moment, digitizing books and essays also gives some leverage to information gatekeepers - not to stop anyone from reading a book, but in keeping track of who has.

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