Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Copyright Law Forces Waste of 81 Million Dollars On Physical Information Database

A new library has been built that works a little different than your average browseable book repository. Instead of using an archaic categorization scheme to figure out where the book you want is stored and walking to the location to pick it up, the idea behind this library is that you tell a computer what book you want, and a robot goes and brings it to you. This system costs 81 million dollars.

Something seems really wrong about this to me. We have the technology to distribute anywhere, instantly, all of the information contained in every one of those books, at a cost of somewhere around zero dollars. This doesn't happen. Instead, to get the information out of one of these books, you have to go to within 50 feet of its physical location twice, at enormous expense for someone, all in the name of maintaining backwards compatibility with a 3000 year old data format. Somehow, someone decided this is the best available option. And with the way the world works today, despite how technically simple the alternatives are, they're probably right.

There are legal barriers preventing books being translated into a format that can be used by computers. It is necessary for anyone attempting to digitalize books, in most countries, to first get the permission of each and every copyright holder. Google discovered this the hard way a while back, and these legal barriers continue to effectively prevent the worlds collective knowledge from being made available to everyone that wants it.

Still, for an artifact of a society intent on keeping us all in the dark ages, it is pretty cool looking.


  1. Welcome to mankind, where we would rather try to get every dime we can out of something rather than work for the collective good.

  2. Information is not free you know