June 2010 No.73  
  Other News

British Library and brightsolid to digitise up to 40 million pages of historic newspapers
“The move is strongly opposed by major publishers”


TThe British Library's Chief Executive, Dame Lynne Brindley, has announced a major new partnership between the Library and online publisher brightsolid, owner of online brands including findmypast.co.uk and Friends Reunited. The ten-year agreement will deliver the most significant mass digitisation of newspapers the UK has ever seen: up to 40 million historic pages from the national newspaper collection will be digitised, making large parts of this unparalleled resource available online for the first time.

James Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation, Europe and Asia, attacked the British Library for its plans to create the digital archive.

Spanning three centuries and including 52,000 local, regional, national and international titles, the British Library holds one of the world's finest collections of newspapers. This vast resource is held mainly in hard copy and microfilm, necessitating a trip to the north London site for people wishing to use the collection.

The partnership between the British Library and brightsolid will enable the digitisation of a minimum of 4 million pages of newspapers over the first two years. Over the course of ten years, the agreement aims to deliver up to 40 million pages as the mass digitisation process becomes progressively more efficient and as in-copyright content is scanned following negotiation with rights holders.

Digitised material will include extensive coverage of local, regional and national press across three and a half centuries. It will focus on specific geographic areas, along with periods such as the census years between 1841 and 1911. Additional categories will be developed looking at key events and themes such as the Crimean War, the Boer War and the suffragette movement. The aim will be to build a critical mass of material for researchers - particularly in the fields of family history and genealogy.

brightsolid is taking on the commercial and technical risks of the project, with no direct costs to the British Library. The firm will digitise content from the British Library Newspaper Library, which it will then make available online via a paid-for website as well as integrating it into its family history websites.

This resource will be available for free to users on-site at the British Library and copies of all scanned materials will be deposited with the Library to be held in the national collection in perpetuity.

Along with out-of-copyright material from the newspaper archive - defined in this context as pre-1900 newspaper material - the partnership will also seek to digitise a range of in-copyright material, with the agreement of the relevant rights holders. This copyright material will, with the express permission of the publishers, be made available via the online resource - providing fuller coverage for users and a much-needed revenue stream for the rights holders.

James Murdoch, Chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, Europe and Asia, in a speech given in London, attacked the British Library for its plans to create the digital archive. He objects to the Library making money from a collection given free of charge by publishers under a legal obligation. While newspapers are closing down all over the world because of falling revenues and competition from the internet, “Search companies and aggregators skim content from a thousand sources, sell it to clients, scoop up advertising revenues and put little or nothing back into professional newsgathering.” The full text of Mr Murdoch’s speech is here.

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