The European Union is backing the creation of a vast European Digital Library which would include music in its vaults.
EU media and information society commissioner Viviane Reding has confirmed Brussels is to co-fund the €250 million ($300 million) initiative, which will gather six million cultural works. Anyone with Internet connection will have access to the digital library.
Reding said that by the end of this year, the European Digital Library will embrace the national libraries in the EU, and this collaboration will then extend to archives and museums.
By 2008, two million songs, films, programs, books photographs, manuscripts, and other cultural works are to be accessible; this figure will rise to six million by 2010.
The announcement follows a consultation process with learning centers, publishers, rights holders, libraries and museums. The 225 replies “generally welcome the initiative and see it as an opportunity for making Europe’s cultural heritage more accessible and usable on the Internet,” says the EU in statement.
However, some concerns were raised over copyright issues from such organizations as the International Confederation of Music Publishers, the Creative Media Business Alliance and British Music Rights.
One of the first challenges will be to digitize content stored in traditional formats, such as photographic negatives, films on reels, and music on vinyl records or tape.
The Commission — the EU’s executive arm — will also co-fund the creation of a Europe-wide network of centers whose role will be to digitalize the content.
Commission officials insist their project is not a reaction to Google’s digital library project, but admit the Internet giant’s efforts have shown the potential of the online environment for making information more widely accessible.