On Friday, the Justice Department pushed for a federal court judge to reject a settlement proposal that would allow Google to digitally scan library books and place them online. The Justice Department’s push for rejection was celebrated by authors, the Open Book Alliance, and others who opposed the proposal, stating that:

The current settlement proposal would stifle innovation and competition in favor of a monopoly over the access, distribution and pricing of the largest collection of digital books in the world, and would reinforce an already dominant position in search and search advertising.

Government attorneys cited “class action, copyright, and antitrust” worries in asking a New York U.S. District Court Judge to reject the current settlement proposal between Google and the Authors Guild. At issue is a $125 million settlement agreement reached last October that gives Google the right to make millions of books available on the Internet for reading or purchase. Under the agreement, a Book Rights Registry would be set up to allow publishers and authors to register their work and get paid for their titles. Proponents say that for the public, this means easy click-of-the-mouse access to millions of books that sit on dusty shelves in libraries across the country. Then there is the privacy issue: Google has the technology to track every page and book a user reads, how long they spend on each page, and what books they buy. However, the agreement does not mention how much of this data will be collected or how it will be utilized. In its current form, the settlement would allow Google to have a digital database containing millions of copyright-protected books, including volumes no longer being published. According to Google:

Google will host the digital books online, and retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your local bookstore will be able to sell access to users on any Internet-connected device they choose. Retailers can also pursue their own digitization efforts of out-of-print books in parallel.

Although there seem to be quite a few areas of disagreement between those on opposing sides of this issue, both sides seem to agree that the process of digitizing books holds great promise for all concerned.

Traci Galbreath

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One Response to Google Books vs. Library Books?

  1. [...] Books project has drawn criticism and concern from many quarters, see here and here, but many of these critiques may not apply to this new project, which will offer only [...]