Digital works bring Library of Congress, Hollywood together

Hoping to improve its ability to preserve and catalog the burgeoning amount of material on 0digital media, the Library of Congress has announced eight partnerships with organizations to establish digital format standards for photos, films, music and video games.

Despite the swell in materials being produced digitally in Hollywood and in the recording and news industries, sufficient standardization for the production or post-production of new digital materials is still lacking, according to library. And without standards regarding metadata -- information about the characteristics of a piece of work -- for the digital documents library, officials say it will be more difficult to care for and chronicle the digital works.

The new project, the Preserving Creative America initiative, part of the library's National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program, is an opportunity for industry and libraries to develop the needed standards cooperatively, said Elizabeth Dulabahn, the project's manager.

'We're not playing with our usual set of colleagues here,' she said. 'This is our attempt to reach out to the private sector in a very real way.'

The partners will receive a total of $2.15 million in grants to research and develop the guidelines. The broad partnerships, which include industry leaders, trade associations, nonprofits and cultural heritage institutions, will also likely force discussion on some of the difficult issues surrounding digital content distribution, such as copyright issues and schedules. The library oversees the U.S. Copyright Office.

When Congress originally funded the program in 2000 as a multiyear effort to address the long-term digitization of digital content, lawmakers instructed the library to turn to the private sector for help.

The library deals with:

  • The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to extend major studio research on digital preservation issues to independent and smaller filmmakers, developing case studies for archival strategies and standards for image data formats.
  • The American Society of Media Photographers and others to develop  accepted standard rules for handling digital images and maintaining information about them.
  • Digital photography company ARTstor and others to train and provide tools that better enable photographers to submit archive-ready images with metadata already imbedded.
  • Archival management company BMS/Chase and recording industry giants such as Sony BMG Universal and EMI Group to standardize the approach to storing metadata in digitally produced audio recordings.
  • The Stock Artists Alliance to promote the use of metadata as way to keep track of stock images as they are disseminated.
  • The newspaper syndication company Universal Press Syndicate to create a case study for public-private partnerships to align metadata practices and collection management of digital data.
  • The Film and Television archive at the University of California at Los Angeles and the Sundance Institute to encourage better digital management practices in the independent film community.
  • The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, other universities and Linden Lab, the maker of Second Life, to determine archival strategies for early video games, electronic literature and Second Life.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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