jd writes "The BBC is reporting that the United Nations' World Digital Library has gone online with an initial offering of 1,200 ancient manuscripts, parchments and documents. To no great surprise, Europe comes in first with 380 items. South America comes in second with 320, with a very distant third place being given to the Middle East at a paltry 157 texts. This is only the initial round, so the leader board can be expected to change. There are, for example, a lot of Sumerian and Babylonian tablets, many of which are already online elsewhere. Astonishingly, the collection is covered by numerous copyright laws, according to the legal page. Use of material from a given country is subject to whatever restrictions that country places, in addition to any local and international copyright laws. With some of the contributions being over 8,000 years old, this has to be the longest copyright extension ever offered. There is nothing on whether the original artists get royalties, however."