[okfn-help] Public domain work request service?

Jonathan Gray jonathan.gray at okfn.org
Mon Nov 16 19:55:47 GMT 2009

On Mon, Nov 16, 2009 at 7:37 PM, Sören Auer
<auer at informatik.uni-leipzig.de> wrote:
> Jonathan Gray wrote:
>> For ages I've been thinking about a simple web service that would
>> allow people to request an open digital copy of a work which has
>> fallen into the public domain, but may be hard to find (or which,
>> e.g., might only be publicly available in a non-open form). They and
>> others could pledge funds towards finding and digitising a work - and
>> anyone who can produce a (public domain) digital copy of the work,
>> would be rewarded with these funds.
>> The reason I've been thinking about this for ages is that there are
>> countless public domain works which I would like to get a digital copy
>> of - and which I would be willing to pay for, but which I have been
>> unable to locate. I guess this particularly makes sense for works of
>> which there may be limited physical copies - such as 78s, manuscripts,
>> old books, paintings and suchlike. Also in this case, it might be that
>> many copies physically accessible to the public cannot be digitally
>> copied for contractual reasons - hence one might be seeking a copy in
>> a private collection. It may also be that a painting is accessible and
>> freely copyable but thousands of miles away (e.g. in a library or
>> hanging in a gallery with no restrictions on making physical copies).
>> This could probably made into quite a fun service (for cultural object
>> hunters!) - and could even potentially be a good preservation strategy
>> for rare objects of interest to niche consumers (for want of a better
>> word).
> Sounds like an interesting idea, although its hard to estimate whether it
> will be possible to attract a sufficiently large user community to
> sustainably run and maintain such a portal.

Yes - this is always hard to estimate! I wonder whether there is
anything we could do to find out about this? E.g. circulate something
to relevant lists to try to gauge demand. I could draft a Google Form
asking for contact details, and which works people would like access
to and how much (if anything) they'd be willing to pay.

>> It recently occurred to me that the Cofundos code might be eminently
>> suitable for this purpose! What do you think?
> Definitely - It might be even usable as-is. We planned to release the
> Cofundos source code as open-source, but did not have the time to properly
> package and document it, but I'm happy to send you a copy.

That would be great! Do you have any basic technical details about the
source? Also we could put the code in a Subversion/Git repository on


Best wishes,

Jonathan Gray

Community Coordinator
The Open Knowledge Foundation

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