ROME - US internet company Google and Italy's Istituto Luce Cinecittà on Thursday announced a joint project to make much of the country's silver-screen heritage available on a YouTube channel.

"This announcement represents an important step in our efforts to safeguard Italy's rich culture and allow global public access to it," said Federica Tremolada, YouTube partnerships manager for Italy, in a statement. "The deal demonstrates how Italy is moving to embrace the web."

More than 30000 clips from the institute's archives are being put on a special YouTube channel. Among them are historical newsreels and material featuring Italian screen legends Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida.

YouTube viewers will be able to search through themed playlists of copyright-protected film material.

"Instead of fearing the net, one of Italy's most venerable names in culture is seizing a giant opportunity to both preserve and profit from its rich artistic heritage," said Ms Tremolada in her statement on a Google blog.

In 2010, Google struck a deal with the Italian government to digitise 1-million books from the national libraries of Rome and Florence.

Google has also featured Italy's national monuments in its World Wonders project and partnered with museums for the Google Art project.

SAPA-AFP