Eben Moglen: they could scan 1/6th of all the books in European libraries for the cost of 100 km of roadway.

The Information Society Directorate of the European Commission issued a report 18 months ago, in which they said that they could scan 1/6th of all the books in European libraries for the cost of 100 km of roadway. That meant, and it is still true, that for the cost of 600 km of road, in an economy that builds thousands of kilometers of roadway every year, every book in all European libraries could be available to the entire human race, it should be done. [shout of “Copyright” from audience] Remember that most of those books are in the public domain, before you shout copyright at me. Remember that the bulk of what constitutes human learning was not made recently, before you shout the copyright at me. We should move to a world in which all knowledge previously available before this lifetime is universally available. If we don’t, we will stunt the innovation which permits further growth. That’s a social requirement. The copyright bargain is not immutable. It is merely convenient. We do not have to commit suicide culturally or intellectually in order to maintain a bargain which does not even relevantly apply to almost all of important human knowledge in most fields. Plato is not owned by anybody.

So here we are, asking ourselves what the educational systems of the 21st century will be like, and how they will socially distribute knowledge across the human race. I have a question for you. How many of the Einsteins who ever lived were allowed to learn physics? A couple. How many of the Shakespeares who ever lived, lived and died without learning to read and write? Almost all of them. With 7 billion people in the world right now, 3 billion of them are children; how many Einsteins do you want to throw away today? The universalization of access to education, to knowledge, is the single-most important force available for increasing innovation and human welfare on the planet. Nobody should be afraid to advocate for it because somebody might shout “copyright”.

  • Eben Moglen

Innovation under Austerity
This is a transcription of a speech given by Eben Moglen at the 2012 Freedom to Connect conference.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2VHf5vpBy8