The New York Times has become the first newspaper to digitise all its back issues, in full.

Every article, picture, editorial and cartoon will be included in a searchable database, right back to the first issue from 1851.

ProQuest, the company setting up the archive, calls it the Historical Newspapers Project. It plans to do the same for most other major US titles, including the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

ProQuest used new digitisation, zoning and image-enhancement techniques for the collection. Digitised editions of copyrighted materials will be available to library and education customers on a subscription basis, and out-of-copyright materials will be available for purchase.

However, copyright disputes have raised thorny issues over electronic archives. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that publishers violated freelance authors' copyrights by putting their articles in electronic databases without their permission.

The Tasini et al v. The New York Times et al decision resulted in the deletion of thousands of articles from archives. Consequently the system does not permit freelance articles to be viewed individually apart from the publication.


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