Brewster Kahle: The Aftermath

Brewster Kahle

The other Davies scholars have definitely said a lot about Brewster's passion for knowledge, and I encourage all of you to check out their responses to his talk.

My contribution to the hive-mind is that I agree 100% with Brewster's goal to create a library of data that is free, open to anybody, and (best of all) digital. Furthermore, I think his choice of using existing libraries as the model is an interesting one (Zeph always equates libraries to "steamboat technology", and even Librarian in Black noted that librarians are behind-the-times), but it seems to work. His goal of digitizing and archiving all forms of media is made easier by working within a system that is already governmentally funded and already has been granted certain access to works still covered by copyright.

But you could have learned all that from googling Brewster.

What I like most about Brewster's talk, and indeed about all of the speakers thus far in the forum, is that the audience gets an insight into the human qualities of the speakers. And if I had to think of one word to describe Brewster it would be passionate.

He proved to all of us in the room, in less than half an hour, that it is entirely possible, and even probable, to archive all forms of media, including, but not limited to, every book ever written. He spoke passionately about his desire to achieve "universal access to all knowledge," to scan every book in the Library of Congress (and some that aren't), and to make sure that Google's digital rights management doesn't limit public access to any media content. And I wanted to conquer the world with him.

During the Q&A portion of the talk, I asked Brewster to talk about the public domain and how it has been affected by Disney. He immediately launched into a heated account of how the public domain has diminished considerably since the 1970s, about how copyright killed the programmer community at MIT (and then spawned the OS community), and about how Disney and other companies lobbied congress to restrict the public domain even further with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. And I wanted to march on Washington with him.

I followed up by asking Brewster how the changes in the public domain have affected the Internet Archive. It was at this point that this man, who had previously been so vociferous, became very quiet. In a low tone, almost a whisper, he said, "They will burn us too, and it will be with the stroke of a pen, or in the middle of the night." And I wanted to cry. Because it is only a matter of time until Brewster's Alexandria falls, and heaven help us all when that day comes.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Apocalyptic, eh? I'm curious, too, how "do no evil" will fare in the 21st century. Want to go to one of the Internet Archive's Friday lunches?