The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), the digitization component of the Encyclopedia of Life, is a consortium of 12 major natural history museum libraries, botanical libraries, and research institutions organized to digitize, serve, and preserve the legacy literature of biodiversity. Prior to digitization, the resources housed within each BHL institution have existed in isolation, available only to those with physical access to the collections. These collections are of exceptional value because the domain of systematic biology depends – more than any other science – upon historic literature. Consequently, the relative isolation of these collections presented an antiquated obstacle to further biodiversity investigation. This problem is particularly acute for the developing countries that are home to the majority of the world’s biodiversity.
The Biodiversity Heritage Library contains digital versions of important works of biodiversity literature. These digital versions consist of digital files such as Optical Character Recognition (OCR) texts and image files. The Biodiversity Heritage Library, a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries, as a consortium does not hold any copyrights on these files. If the original works from which the digital versions were produced are in the public domain, so too are the digital files. As the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Institutions composing the BHL states, “All information currently in the public domain remains in the public domain. Neither the BHL nor the data providers will seek to assert any IPR over public domain materials.”
September 13, 2010