Norway To Digitize All Norwegian Books, Allowing Domestic IP Addresses To Read All Of Them, Irrespective Of Copyright Status

from the futuristic-thinking dept

Here’s a pretty amazing story from Norway:

The National Library of Norway is planning to digitize all the books by the mid 2020s.

Yes. All. The. Books. In Norwegian, at least. Hundreds of thousands of them. Every book in the library’s holdings.

Now, in any normal country — where “normal” means one in which copyright has reached the heights of monopolistic insanity — if those books were still under copyright, the digitized versions (assuming publishers even allowed them to be made in the first place) would probably only be available in a specially constructed room deep in the basement of the National Library on a (small) screen, and with guards stationed either side of it to ensure that no unauthorized copies were made. Here, by contrast, is what’s happening with the National Library of Norway’s digital collection:

If you happen to be in Norway, as measured by your IP address, you will be able to access all 20th-century works, even those still under copyright. Non-copyrighted works from all time periods will be available for download.

As Alexis C. Madrigal points out in his entertaining article for The Atlantic, there’s a rather interesting consequence of the different approaches to book digitization taken by Norway and the US, say:

Imagine digital archaeologists coming across the remains of early 21st century civilization in an old data center on the warming tundra. They look around, find some scraps of Buzzfeed and The Atlantic, maybe some Encyclopaedia Britannicas, and then, gleaming in the data: a complete set of Norwegian literature.

Suddenly, the Norwegians become to 27th-century humans what the Greeks were to the Renaissance. Everyone names the children of the space colonies Per and Henrik, Amalie and Sigrid. The capital of our new home planet will be christened Oslo.

This is what excessive copyright does to countries that impose it. It 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.

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Comments on “Norway To Digitize All Norwegian Books, Allowing Domestic IP Addresses To Read All Of Them, Irrespective Of Copyright Status”

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40 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: goolge

If I’m not mistaken, it was only ruled that digitising and indexing those books fell under the realms of fair use. Not that they were able to let everybody read the entirety of every book.

That’s the difference here – Google can’t just let you read any book you want from cover to cover, but that’s exactly what Norway is going to let its citizens do.

Brazilian Guy says:

Congratulations to the Norwegians for the progressive thinking. Im sure this iniciative will greatly help to preserve the cultural heritage embodied by their language, and help to mend the gaps with their arabic immigrants.

That said, unless people start encoding large batches of data in dna for long time storage, i doubt there will be much future for digital archeology, as its too easy to erase digital data and even the better projected time capsules of 50 years ago storing mettalic objects have show permeability by water, and the subsequent general corrosion. Wanna store data for long times? Print it on paper, seal in glass, then you trade magnetic state entropic losses for chemical entropic losses. Digital data is cheap and allows plenty of redundancy but has terrible resiliency faced against adverse conditions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Store data in glass, it last forever.

physorg: Data that lives forever is possible: Japan’s Hitachi

The scientists say that 5D optical storage could allow for densities as high as 360 terabytes per disc, and unless you crush it in a vice, these discs are so non-volatile that data stored on them should ?survive the human race.?

extremetech: Five-dimensional glass memory can store 360TB per disc, rugged enough to outlive the human race

Swordcrossrocket says:

Yeah, people are going to quickly go after the digitized books and will rarely buy new ones. The Norwegian authors are going to have to hope they can make money selling outside of their own country, but more likely than not you’ll start to see writing decline.

Google books isn’t bad because it lets you search the contents while letting you have an extended preview. It’s something you can search for topics and then find books rather than a pure replacement.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Yeah, people are going to quickly go after the digitized books and will rarely buy new ones.”

Massive fail on your part. You’re making several assumptions with absolutely no evidence to back them up
1) That the vast majority of Norwegians don’t like paper books.
2) That the vast majority of Norwegians prefer reading e-books
3) That the vast majority of Norwegians have quality e-reading devices (which in my experience means a Kindle)

Last I checked, paper books are still vastly popular. I’m a voracious e-reader myself, but I still prefer the physical book. The only reason I rarely get one these days is I simply don’t have the room to store them.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Last I checked, paper books are still vastly popular. I’m a voracious e-reader myself, but I still prefer the physical book. The only reason I rarely get one these days is I simply don’t have the room to store them.

I tend to be exactly the opposite. I prefer e-books. But there is one place in the world where having a paper book is preferred to e-books. Less chance of a paper book getting wet and electrocuting you, and in some cases, for a particularly bad book, you can use its pages to clean up after yourself.

Though I tend to read a lot of magazines in this place instead.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

OOGA BOOGA!!! BEWARE OF THE BOGEY MAN!

I’d like to see some argument backing up your doomsday analysis considering I have the paper books for most stuff I have in my Kindle (btw I’ve never bought an e-book). Also consider that there are books so worn out due to me reading them a lot of times that I actually bought A SECOND one. Notice I have an e-reader that’s incredibly useful.

I’m waiting for a sound argument.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yup, just like no-one buys paperback books anymore since ebooks came out.

Just like no one buys books at all once it became possible to download them for free.

In the short-term a move like this might indeed decrease book sales, but I think long term it will likely increase them, as people discover new and different authors that they’d previously never heard of, due to being able to try their works for free.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Lots of assumptions there, do you have anything to back them up? I can point to evidence that contradicts your claims.

“The Norwegian authors are going to have to hope they can make money selling outside of their own country”

I would hope that any of them with any grasp on business would already hope to make money selling outside of Norway and/or outside of the Norwegian language. They’re missing out on most of the planet if they’ve never bothered, while presumably competing with non-Norwegian authors who’ve had their works translated on their home turf.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, people are going to quickly go after the digitized books and will rarely buy new ones. The Norwegian authors are going to have to hope they can make money selling outside of their own country, but more likely than not you’ll start to see writing decline.

Epic failure – to repeat a previous commenter’s sarcasm as a “serious” comment!

Well done sir!

Martin says:

Background info

According to some articles in norwegian from 2012 (eg. this) publishers have the right to exclude certain works from the publicly available collection. At that time around 1400 out of 50 000 works had been excluded. It seems that works that are still copyright protected (i.e. probably the majority of books written between 1900 and 2000) will not be made available for download, but may only be read online via the web page. As always one has got to wonder what the reaction will be when people realize that an artificial separation of downloading and streaming is quite meaningless.

Anne Marit Godal says:

"Digitalization"

If you were to look at the books in Bokhylla.no (i.e. this: http://www.nb.no/nbsok/nb/18c1ce291bc14a2dc2e25cb31949de4d?index=0#9) – available from Norwegian IP-adresses – you would see that the digital version is a picture file, not a text-file, with all the followings limitations. As Martin said, publishers have the right to exclude certain works. Works that are still copyright protected are not available for download. This page explains the agreement: http://www.kopinor.no/brukere/bibliotek/nasjonalbiblioteket

out_of_the_blue says:

If Norwegian were popular, every book would be torrented worldwide.

The positively stoopid notion that they can lock this down into only Norway — THAT’S supposed to substantiate their grasp of tech? SHEESH!

As one already (perhaps sarcastically) commented: this near ensures the disappearance of Norwegian “culture”, as no one wants what’s freely available. One of the secrets of “locking up” whether copyright or Prohibition is that the unavailable is seen as highly desirable.


If you advocate taking copyright away from Disney (after 80-some years), then FINE! — But don’t at same time empower today’s mega-corporations to steal creative works from the poor. Those are not similar cases. Doing away with ALL copyright is even more criminal than the current mess. — Make a means test for copyright, prohibit it entirely to corporations, and prevent them from raiding the public domain.

03:15:43[d-226-7]

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: If Norwegian were popular, every book would be torrented worldwide.

Not to mention that he’s claimed that the popularity of a language should be equal to the worldwide appeal of the culture in that language. I expect him to open up his vast collection of Mandarin and Spanish language culture – both of which have more native speakers worldwide than English – to support his claim, lest he reveal himself yet again to be without any care for smaller artists and businessmen.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Yes and no – he’s Schroedinger’s corporate sycophant, changing state depending on the story.

If the story’s about Google or a similar large corporation, or he has nothing specific to attack Mike for, he’ll attack corporations and pretend that the comments and writers here are simply corporate bootlickers.

Then, when faced with something like this or a successful alternative business model, he’ll defend the corporate point of view, pretending that nothing works if you can’t make $100 million, retain absolute monopoly or appeal to the basest common denominator.

The level of self-delusion is astounding, unless he’s deliberately putting on an act, in which case he’s one of the saddest human beings I’ve encountered.

Theodora Michaels (user link) says:

Headline is incorrect.

According to the the library’s policy, not everything will be available to anyone with a Norwegian IP address.

Digital content no longer covered by copyright shall be made available to everyone in the digital library. The entire digital collection shall be available for research and documentation on the National Library of Norway?s premises. The Library shall otherwise enter into agreements with beneficial owners regarding the right to grant online access to researchers, students and the Library?s users in general.

This makes sense. Norway would be violating international treaties if they just made everything available without regard to copyright status.

ahow628 (profile) says:

Re: Headline is incorrect.

Something seems awry here. If Norway wants to let Norwegians use items produced by Norwegians in Norway any way they want, isn’t that their right – international treaties be damned?

I would figure international treaties would only come into play if either Norway was offering all non-Norwegian content for free or if it was giving Norwegian content to a foreign country for free.

Although, maybe treaties don’t work like interstate commerce in the US.

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