Yahoo has thrown its not inconsiderable weight behind a San Francisco group that hopes to develop an online library of digitised texts and films in the public domain, available for download and reuse in high resolution formats.

The company is one of a number of organizations supporting the Open Content Alliance, which plans to set up an online archive bringing together existing digital collections of books and films and to add new works to the archive.

The plan follows that Adobe and HP will supply software; books will be provided by the University of Toronto and O'Reilly Media. Films will be supplied by the Prelinger Archives and the UK's National Archives, while Yahoo index content and fund the digitisation of a collection of American literature selected by the University of California.

The cost of the book and film archive will be borne by the companies contributing the content, or by other sponsors such as Yahoo. With that funding model, the library should be able to store millions of books, films and audio recordings. The library should be ready to offer its first digital content by the end of the year.

Some of the works will be released under Creative Commons licenses, allowing artistic works to be distributed or reused under certain conditions. This would make it possible for third parties to transform some of the classic books into audio books, or reprint them and offer them for sale, without additional permission.

The group plans to demonstrate book scanning and other technologies it will use at an event on 25 October.

The Open Content Alliance's digital library is not the only one under construction. Google is building another, Google Print, for which it plans to digitise millions of books, including some still covered by copyright. However, Google has attracted criticism from various publishing industry groups, including US-based The Authors Guild, which has filed a lawsuit to stop the service. Google maintains that the portions of copyright works it will show through Google Print are covered under laws relating to fair use.