Google Print and copyrights

This post courtesy of Anne Taylor-Vaisey: I have been meaning to write to you about Google Print for some time, and have been prompted to do so today because of an editorial in today's Globe and Mail: The copyright claim in Google's e-library [This may require a subscription]

Google Print is a pretty interesting project, to say the least. Here is the advanced search page.

From the About Google Print page:

    Google's mission is to organize the world's information, but much of that information isn't yet online. Google Print aims to get it there by putting book content where you can find it most easily - right in your Google search results. [Read more here]

Google publishes small excerpts from books and claims to respect copyright.

Today's Globe and Mail editorial discusses this issue. Here is an excerpt:

    The idea of a giant electronic library is a tempting one: the world's great books, in any language, accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. But who would decide which books to include? And how would authors and other copyright holders be compensated when people read them? These are just a couple of the questions raised by Google's Library Project, the on-line search company's plan to scan and index millions of library books.

    The details of the project are astonishing. Google plans to spend the next five or six years manually scanning the millions of texts held by the University of Michigan, Stanford University, Oxford University, Harvard University and the New York Public Library. The library at the University of Michigan alone holds more than seven million volumes. Oxford University has agreed to provide access to more than a million books that were originally published in the 19th century, and Harvard has limited its participation to 40,000 of the 15 million books its collection holds.

    The Library Project is an extension of the Google Print program, in which the search company asked publishers in the United States and Britain to voluntarily submit their books for scanning and indexing. Google says it decided to extend the project to books in libraries because it was securing only a small proportion of the books available. The company has also said that it wants to scan as many rare and out-of-print books as possible, and that many of them either don't have publishers or are difficult to find.

    A book lover's first response is likely to be joy at the idea of having so many books available at the click of a mouse. And certainly for those books in the public domain -- those that have passed out of the copyright protection that usually extends for 50 years after an author's death -- the joy can be unalloyed...

    As with the on-line dissemination of recorded music, there is a potential benefit for authors and publishers in Google's proposal, since it would increase interest in, and exposure to, their work. What is required is a way either to compensate them for allowing their works to be scanned, in the same way that Canadian authors are compensated when their books are stocked in a library, or to encourage readers to buy a book once they have found a compelling excerpt. It would be wonderful to make such an electronic library work; but it is important that the copyright portion of this library not be built by playing loose with the rights of the people who created the material. Respecting those rights, too, is in society's interest.

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