Friday, December 2, 2011

The Copyright Office Needs Google

The U.S. Copyright Office needs help. Like an old library, the Copyright Office maintains a card catalog indexing system for its pre-1978 records. And the Copyright Office has a lot of cards, over 46 million. These index cards are housed in wooden drawers contained within row after row of wooden boxes. Updates to the cards have been made in pen directly onto the cards. Recognizing that this type of indexing system has not been in fashion for some time, the Copyright Office is now attempting to join the digital age by scanning its index cards and somehow creating a database of pre-1978 filings going back to 1790.

Maria Pallante explains it this way: "Have you ever attempted to build an electronic index and searchable database of a complex and diverse collection of 70 million imaged historical records? Neither have we. One of the largest card catalogs in the world, the U.S. Copyright Office card catalog comprises approximately 46 million cards."

The Copyright Office has established a blog to allow public comments and suggestions on how best to digitally index and document its pre-1978 records. It also provides updates on its digitization goals and status.

Note to the Register, call Google.

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