UK urged to help Europe's digital library

European Commission is encouraging member states to boost efforts towards creating a continent-wide library, to save culture from 'irretrievable loss'

The UK is being urged to step up its efforts to contribute to a Europe-wide free digital library.

The European Commission is asking all member states to boost efforts towards making its dream of a continent-wide library — containing books, films, photographs, manuscripts and other cultural works — a reality.

Before this can happen issues of copyright need to be resolved and plans put in place for the systematic preservation of all digital content. The Commission is also asking European countries to set up "large scale digitisation facilities" to speed up the project and has put some funds aside to pay for them.

In a "Recommendation" paper, the Commission says it intends the library to be used for education, work, leisure and creativity, and added: "The recommended measures will contribute to presenting Europe's rich and diverse heritage on the Internet and to protecting cultural assets from irretrievable loss."

Other recommendations for speeding up the project include building bridges with cultural institutions and the private sector to find alternative funding for the project, encouraging artists and rights holders to make their works available and swapping best practice between national governments.

The EC hopes to include two million works in the library by 2008 and increase the total to six million before the end of the decade.

Google has also firmed up its plans for a digital library of its own. The search giant is planning to expand its book search feature to allow users to download out-of-copyright books, such as Dante's Inferno.

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