Copyright Office Brainstorming Ways To Digitize Records
Do you know why you can enjoy cinematic wonders such as A Midsummer Night’s Rave and Rave Macbeth, wherein works of the Bard are reimagined in glowstick-filled warehouses? Because Shakespeare’s plays became public domain in 1999. Once a work enters the public domain, writers are free to create plays, fan fiction, rap songs, poetry, short stories, and other derivative works based on the original, and the work can be quoted and published willy-nilly.
Like people who crop all except their faces from their dating-profile pics, the public domain is probably much larger than we think. We're not actually sure how large because right now, if you want to view historical copyright records from before 1978, you'll need to fly to D.C, make a request for access, then sift through an intimidating collection of physical files. This arduous process means thousands of forgotten tomes are gathering dust when they could be digitized and made widely available online...nevermind the countless rave movies waiting to be made.
This past week, the U.S. Copyright Office took a (tiny) step toward making these historical copyright records searchable online by issuing two official Requests for Information. The first request says they're seeking technology that can help create raw images of cards to create a virtual, but non-searchable, card catalog. The second one is for a crowd-sourcing solution that would have people enter searchable meta-data for roughly 70 million cards and pages dating back to 1870. Since the "age, condition and formatting of records" limits the use of automatic text scanning, much of this will have to be done by hand. Isn't that what interns are for?
Have you ever written anything based on a public domain work? Do you think searchable copyright records should be a high-priority issue for the U.S. Copyright Office? Let us know.
Photo via Brockport: From 1835 To Today!
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