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Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Noteworthy and newsworthy
News that is definitely particularly noteworthy at the time of writing is the furor over Google Print for Libraries. It has been a hot topic since its inception and it is likely to remain in the news for some time.
In December 2004, Google announced that it would be working with the New York Public Library and with the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan, and Oxford University to digitally scan books from their collections so that users can search the texts by keyword. To Google, this was a logical – and essential – step in carrying out its mission. At the time of the announcement, Larry Page, Google co-founder and president of Products said, “Even before we started Google, we dreamed of making the incredible breadth of information that librarians so lovingly organize searchable online. Today we’re pleased to announce this program to digitize the collections of these amazing libraries so that every Google user can search them instantly” (Google, 2004). And clearly Google had many supporters. For example, Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, said, “We believe passionately that such universal access to the world’s printed treasures is mission-critical for today’s great public university” (Google, 2004). One scholar sees this as possibly “the most important contribution to the spread of knowledge since Jefferson dreamed of national libraries” (Lessig, 2005). Since that announcement, publishers and authors have reacted with everything from skepticism to lawsuits (for copyright infringement), and bloggers have had a heyday discussing copyright law, impediments to technological progress, and Google’s rights or, depending on the blogger, Google’s culpability. Articles have appeared in popular magazines and papers as well as in professional journals.
In addition to those claiming it is illegal are those with philosophical caveats as well. Thomas Mann’s (2005) observation that online searches cannot replace what he calls “focused browsing” was an admonishment to those who thought that this would allow libraries to send paper copies to remote storage or to rely even more heavily on interlibrary loan. His point is that there are things that can be found only by browsing in the stacks because sometimes researchers are unable to specify in advance what they are looking for, although they will recognize it immediately when they see it.
What is clear is that interpretations of copyright and fair use will be put to the test. Of course, many of the books to be scanned are in the public domain, about 80 percent according to the Google blog. However, current copyright holders of books still to be scanned are calling foul. Because the searcher will only get a few lines of text from books that are still in copyright, Google claims they are covered by the “fair use” provision and, thus, do not need permission from publishers or authors (Stone, 2005).
Our digital card catalog will let people discover these books through Google search, see their bibliographic information, view [three] short snippets related to their queries (never the full text), and offer them links to places where they can buy the book or find it in a local library (Thompson, 2005).
In July of 2005, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) invited Google CEO Eric Schmidt to a board meeting, which resulted in his agreeing to stop scanning copyrighted books until November 1. Google, however, still felt that the scanning was illegal and told publishers that they could provide names of books that they did not want scanned. In September, the Authors Guild filed a class action suit seeking damages. At the end of October five publishers, working through the AAP, sued in a New York federal court to stop the scanning. The publishers were McGraw-Hill, Pearson PLC’s Pearson Education and Penguin Group (USA) units, Viacom’s Simon & Schuster, and John Wiley & Sons (Stone, 2005; ABC NewsOnline, 2005).
Another extreme response was that of Rowman & Littlefield, which pulled out of the Google Print for Publishers (a completely voluntary program) and has refused to meet with Google because, according to Jed Lyons, president and CEO, the Library Project is “an outrageous rip-off” and is “flagrantly violating US copyright law”. This is the only publisher to withdraw from the publisher program because of the Library Project, and Lyons has said that the company will not participate in any Google “until you stop this illegal activity” (Albanese, 2005).
The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP, 2005), an international trade association for not-for-profit publishers and commercial publishers who work with nonprofit publishers, has supported full-text indexing of online publications and issued a position statement calling on Google “to cease unlicensed digitisation of copyright materials with immediate effect, and to enter into urgent discussions with representatives of the publishing industry … ”. The statement concludes by saying “We cannot believe that a business which prides itself on its cooperation with publishers could seriously wish to build part of its business on a basis of copyright infringement”. Publishers and writers who object to the program see this as a clear violation of copyright and of fair use, claiming that the creation of the digital copy itself is a violation, regardless of the fact that it is being used to create an index or catalog and will not be available itself. Among the many questions raised (see ABC News Online, 2005; DigitalKoans, 2005) is whether it matters how much a given searcher receives or does one judge legality by how much of the book is actually used in responding to all searchers. Is this really hurting the copyright holders or is it actually free advertising? Is current the current idea of intellectual “property” outdated? Is this analogous to videotaping a television program? Or, as Patricia Shroeder, president of AAP and former congresswoman from Colorado, claims, is this setting a precedent that will allow anyone to make digital copies of anything? According to some legal experts, this is really an extension of the battle over making digital copies of music, movies, and other media –now including books.
What the courts decide remains to be seen. Clearly, the issue will not be solved quickly or easily. However, once we know whether this project will be declared legal or whether Google will be paying huge fines, it will be interesting to see what the effect on libraries will be, for example, on reference services or interlibrary loan, and what percentage of all users will find searching a catalog of that magnitude efficient.
Edited by Eileen FitzsimonsFitzsimons Editorial Consultants, Chicago, Illinois, USA
ABC NewsOnline (2005), “Publishers sue Google over print library”, October 20, available at: www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200510/s1487083.htm
Albanese, A. (2005), “Publisher: no thanks, Google”, Library Journal, November 1, available at: www.libraryjournal.com/index.asp?layout=articlePrint&articleid=CA6277398
ALPSP (2005), Google Print for Libraries – ALPSP Position Statement, Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, Clapham, available at: www.library.yale.edu/∼llicense/ListArchives/0508/msg00025.html
DigitalKoans (2005), The Google Print Controversy: A Bibliography, available at: www.escholarlypub.com/digitalkoans/2005/10/25/the-google-print-controversy-a-bibliography
Google (2004), “Google checks out library books”, available at: www.google.com/press/pressrel/printlibrary.html
Lessig, L. (2005), “Google sued”, Lessig Blo, September 22, available at: www.lessig.org/blog/archives/003140.shtml
Mann, T. (2005), “Google print vs. onsite collections”, American Libraries, Vol.36 No. 7, pp. 45–6
Stone, B. (2005), “Google’s book battle”, Newsweek, October 31, p. 50
Thompson, B. (2005), “Defending Google’s license to print”, BBC News, October 10, available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4320642.stm