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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 September 2006, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Digital archiving gains new tool
Labour Party website
The Labour Party website is among those being preserved
A tool that makes it easier to gather and store digital archives has been developed by the National Library of New Zealand and the British Library.

As more and more information goes online the race is on to create meaningful digital archives.

The web curator tool automates the process of collecting and storing information.

It will become a key part of the British Library's existing digital preservation programme.

Web harvesting

The libraries worked in partnership with technology firm Sytec under the auspices of the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC). The IIPC wanted a process that did not require a high level of technical knowledge to use.

The web curator tool that was developed will be available to other organisations as an open source release by the end of the year.

The practise of web harvesting - using software to search out and gather snapshots of websites - will become increasingly important as organisations seek to preserve web pages, which often have a shelf-life of just a few months before disappearing.

The temporary nature of the web and the sheer amount of information available online makes digital preservation tricky.

Copyright issues

According to Stephen Green, the British Library's web archiving programme manager, the tool will concentrate on sites considered to be an important part of British cultural heritage, such as the websites of political parties and information around significant events such as the July 7th bombings.

One obstacle in the plans to create extensive digital archives is current copyright legislation and The British Library is currently embroiled in a battle to extend the terms of copyright to the digital realm.

As part of its intellectual property "manifesto", launched on Monday, it warned that the UK's national music archive could be lost under current copyright law.

It is not only academic institutions that are keen on creating a digital archive. Google is currently involved in attempts to scan millions of books, a plan that has been heavily criticised by some publishers.

Google gained one ally this week as the Complutense University of Madrid Library announced it will join the project.

It will allow Google to digitise its out of copyright books, which includes some of the greatest works of Spanish literature as well as works in French, German, Latin, Italian and English.

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