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Crowd-Sourced Digitization Kicks Off

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By Dawn Lim February 16, 2010

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An experiment in crowd-sourced digitization kicked off last week with the inaugural meeting of the International Amateur Scanning League. Carl Malamud, president of Public.Resource.Org, the nonprofit dedicated to the free and open access of public domain material, was delighted to announce that:

David Ferriero, the U.S. Archivist, joined me in the initial meeting where we taught volunteers how to rip DVDs!

This new club's first task will be to organize its volunteers to digitize 1,500 DVDs from the National Archives and Records Administration so that the content can be shared on YouTube, the Internet Archive and PublicResource.org's Public Domain Stock Footage Theater for free. This grassroots effort brings more citizen hands on board FedFlix -- a joint venture by National Technical Information Service to digitize and put government videotapes online. Here's Malamud's plug:

The International Amateur Scanning League is an experiment in crowd-sourced digitization to help government and other institutions make their archives more widely available. Volunteers will be given credit for their work in the online metadata, will receive cool tchotchkes, and will be eligible to display Public Domain Merit Badges upon completion of designated levels of service.

On a more serious note, he adds,

When citizens help make works of the government more broadly available, this leads not only to increased access by the public but a host of commercial opportunities for print-on-demand, DVD sales, and other value-added operations.

So far, 25 volunteers -- including employees of the Smithsonian working after hours and members of DC CopyNight, a social gathering of people who meet to talk about developments in copyright law -- have been mobilized. Some of this stuff is not easy to do. "Digitizing videotape, for example, takes some

real training and equipment," Malamud admitted. Nonetheless, he hopes that the new club will pave the way for a host of new crowd-sourcing initiatives that will help make the public domain more accessible.

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