Vatican Library closure

Closed for renovations until 2010, the Vatican Library‘s priceless books will not be directly accessible for research. Here are some extracts from the BCC report on technology in place there that tickled me.

“…the Vatican Library is in the vanguard of digital technology. Microchips have already been installed inside some valuable books, which tell librarians if a book is missing from its regular stack.”

And on the obverse side of the page, keeping in mind that I’ve just finished weeding outdated transparencies from our stacks:
“…stacks of old card indexes still fill one of the reading rooms when the library catalogue has been transferred to a digital database.

‘We shall never destroy them because scholars often prefer to use the old library cards, and they are a permanent record which we can always use to check possible mistakes in the database,’ Mr Piazzoni explained.”

inside the Vatican Library

Meet Internet Billionaire Kevin Ham

What could be more lucrative and rewarding for an individual than a career in medicine? Kevin Ham found the answer. He switched from being a general practitioner to purchasing old domain names on auction and is now “the man who owns the internet“, according to Paul Sloan, Business Magazine editor-at-large. Some of the URLs that comprise his electronic empire are those ending “.cm”, a common mis-entry for “.com” that is also Cameroon’s top level domain.

This brings to mind the cases of logo copyright infringement multi-national corporations faced decades ago when expanding into new territories. A single investor had beat them into certain geographic markets, registering their own established logos before they had thought to invest there. Dastardly! – but insightful, I thought at the time. And immediately afterwards: I wish I’d thought of that. Yet when the World Wide Web came along and investors started exhibiting these same behaviours, domain squatting or cybersquatting was condemned by the World Intellectual Property Organization and shot down in the courts. One could no longer benefit from purchasing that which someone else already had legal claim to.

Like Access Copyright, which protects the rights of the producer or owner of a work, the “intellectual property (IP) system” is claimed to “reward creativity, stimulate innovation and contribute to economic development while safeguarding the public interest” (see WIPO). I can appreciate that economic gain from one’s work is a motivation for many of us. Yet creative commons can increase productivity and innovation – and what is it they mean by “safeguarding the public interest”, anyway?

I’m torn. I want to say something witty and decisive that will strike a move forward for the open source movement; collaborative visionaries are creating amazing programs that proprietary organizations can’t keep up with. Yet I remember Jerome K. Jerome‘s claims about “Three Men in a Boat: To say Nothing of the Dog“. He gained financial security from its early sales, yet did not have the means prior to copyright legislation to keep its republication solely his own. But that same fact must have helped to drive its success. As I say, I’m torn on this issue.

No time exists like the present for doing some reading. Here’s Jerome’s opus, 1909 illustrated edition online.