Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Google Book Search: pending in Courts

Several digitization projects have started.

*Google Book Search:
-- Publisher Program: books from numerous international publishers
-- Library Program: books from 5 US and British libraries
* Yahoo!: launched the Open Content Alliance (OCA) for scanning out-of-copyright books or works submitted by Creative Commons
* Microsoft: MSN Book Search (out-of-copyright books only) and joined the OCA
* Look Inside the Book (now Search Inside the Book), for-pay only, in accordance with publishers
* Project Gutenberg: public domain books only
* Internet Archive: out-of-copyright books, part of the OCA
* Random House: pay-per-view
* US Library of Congress:
-- American Memory Project (Americana)
-- Global Gateway (documenting the ties between the US and Brazil, France, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain)
-- World Digital Library (Asian and Islamic documents from 10-16th centuries)

Google arguably stretches the meaning of ‘fair use’ under copyright law the furthest with its Google Book Search project.

Let’s look at the pros and cons and try to figure out where this is going.

Pro Google:
*Only 20% of all books are in print and 20% are in the public domain, so 60% are out of reach. Google makes them accessible.
*Searches return only some lines or pages for copyrighted works and no more than 20% of an entire book after multiple searches (without printing option), full book only after explicit approval from the author in the Publisher Program. Authors can opt-out of the Library Program.
* Could help spur sales. Google refers to online retailers (for no fee).
* No ads in the Library Program. Ads in the Publisher program only if the publisher gives permission, in which case they receive the majority of the shared revenue.
* Google gives a second version to the libraries, for archiving and preservation.
* Meets the needs of students, whoe are moving online and out of libraries.
* Search engines make copies of web pages without consent from their authors. Nobody has a problem with that.

Contra Google:
* Security could be questionable, which raises questions about piracy.
* Google is appropriating material that it doesn’t own for commercial reasons.
* Authors cannot be assured of Google’s future plans.
* Copyright holders will have no way stopping others.
* There is a distinction between books and music piracy: taking part of the value that this releases (book search) v. protecting yourself against losses produced by new technology (music piracy).
* Claiming that Book Search will increase sales is speculation at best.

I suppose new developments will focus on two elements:
* ‘Fair use’ is what it is all about, but also how far a judge is willing to adjust the understanding of this term to the present internet age. Can the common cause prevail?
* Will Google be allowed to scan at all? Do the disclosing policies (opt-out; small parts of books on display only; no print facilities) have anything to do with that?

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