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Google's Plan For Out-of-Print Books Is Challenged 324

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the time-for-yet-another-open-source-license dept.
Death Metal writes to tell us that a growing tide of complaints are being piled at Google's feet in response to a far-reaching settlement that some feel will grant the giant too much power over the "orphan books" they have been scanning into digital format. The settlement could give Google near-exclusivity with respect to the copyright of orphan works — books that the author and publisher have essentially abandoned. They are out of print, and while they remain under copyright, the rights holders are unknown or cannot be found. "Critics say that without the orphan books, no competitor will ever be able to compile the comprehensive online library Google aims to create, giving the company more control than ever over the realm of digital information. And without competition, they say, Google will be able to charge universities and others high prices for access to its database. The settlement, 'takes the vast bulk of books that are in research libraries and makes them into a single database that is the property of Google,' said Robert Darnton, head of the Harvard University library system. 'Google will be a monopoly.'"
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Google's Plan For Out-of-Print Books Is Challenged

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  • The Same Old Story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:13PM (#27478051) Journal

    The settlement, 'takes the vast bulk of books that are in research libraries and makes them into a single database that is the property of Google,' said Robert Darnton, head of the Harvard University library system. 'Google will be a monopoly.'

    Why is it that books -- of all things -- should be the last thing to be digitized [slashdot.org]?

    Your resistance is futile. It perplexes me that you -- a university librarian -- cannot see what is so obvious to me but I will spoon feed it to you. We live in a capitalistic society where supply rises to meet demand. I am a ravenous consumer of books and for sometime have desired an all-encompassing repository of books. You, the writers guilds, the publishers, the industry as a whole have failed to meet this demand for sometime now. Unfortunately for you, the early bird gets the worm. The early bird being Google, the worm being my rewarding eyeballs and possibly pocketbook. I may have been the minority of your consumers but that has changed and it is no longer you against a few nerds. It's you against the world. You will lose. Your industry has successfully prevented this. Why, I'm not quite sure. Greed? Stupidity? There are so many good words to pick from.

    You will have to forgive me when I lack sympathy for your position on the books your archaic publishing system fails to make available to me. Oh no, no one will ever be able to publish them now! Alas, woe is me. Instead of being permanently unavailable to me, they will soon be available to everyone ... I'm not even going to get into the jump they see in sales when their books are digitized.

    If Google's inevitable monopoly is nigh, why don't you draw up your own business plan to garner venture capital and get all the universities to back you on it? Google's taking a risk and in the end, it's going to be good for the end consumer.

    Either shit or get off the toilet. You had your chance, you squandered it. This should have been started almost a decade ago and completed five years ago. I'm sick and tired of the greed factor inhibiting such a useful tool for mankind. As head of an ivy league university library, I would have guessed support for what could well be the modern digital version of Alexandria before it was burned. I'm shocked a librarian would take this stance.

    • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:22PM (#27478173) Journal

      Your rant may well be spot on in terms of the general attitude of librarians. But please note what the man actually said:

      The settlement, 'takes the vast bulk of books that are in research libraries and makes them into a single database that is the property of Google,' said Robert Darnton, head of the Harvard University library system. 'Google will be a monopoly

      Given that specific bit you quote, the man is concerned about Google being the exclusive source of access to these books; he's not expressing fear that his industry is going away, but that what's replacing it will have less freedom of access. You can debate if that's the case or not, but at least address what the man's talking about.

      • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:25PM (#27478215) Homepage

        There is a very simple and very obvious solution to all of this.

        Let orphan works fall into the public domain.

        Yeah, copyright run amok causes problems. We could have told you that before any of this business.

        So add book publishers to the list of greedy idiots that handed a technology company a monopoly on a silver platter.

        • by Blue Stone (582566) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:38PM (#27478449) Homepage Journal

          In the UK, and a few other countries, if you have cash in a bank account and don't touch it for 15 years, the government will seize it and give it away to charity.

          That's real actual CASH. Tangible (erm ... ok ... not entirely) but it's actual property. So why the hell not do that with Imaginary Property that's been 'abandoned'?

          • by aaandre (526056) on Monday April 06, 2009 @02:05PM (#27478765)

            Current IP laws do not aim for the benefit of the public or fairness or logic. They only aim for the benefit of corporations by enabling them to extort money from the public, i.e. from humanity.

            The initial intention of the law, to benefit inventors, artists, scientists etc. who actually put time and money into the creation of their work has been blown out of proportion, aiming to turn IP into something similar to real estate.

            Anyone can have an idea, it doesn't take that much time to do research or write a song. Implying that the products of these efforts should be property forever* is ridiculous.

            *I consider 100+ years to be "forever" given that it's longer than the average lifespan.

            5, 10, 15 year terms encourage artists, inventors, scientists enough.

            The public is what makes a work more valuable by giving its collective attention to it. The current copyright law terms and conditions are overreaching and rob the public.

            • by bill_kress (99356) on Monday April 06, 2009 @04:01PM (#27480337)

              Actually the initial intention of the law (at least how I read it in the Constitution) is to benefit the public by encouraging artists to create.

              The benefit to artists was almost a side-effect, or more a way to get more works into the public domain.

              If you think about it--in offering copyright, I am giving up something (the ability to reproduce a work I've seen). What am I giving this up in exchange for?

              There is no innate rule that someone who creates something has any right to exclude others from it. This is a gift we give them as a thank you for creating something that will someday belong to us all.

              Sometimes I think we should just revoke the right altogether for a few years. Disney's manipulation of the laws for profit has been horrific, they have stolen from all of us more than any copyright infringer. By now, we should own Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and hundreds of other characters.

              Every time they are almost out from under copyright, Disney goes back to congress and manipulates the law in order to steal them from us for a few more years.

              This is more horrific and evil thievery (at least in volume) than every bit-torrent ever downloaded.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            [citation needed]

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Blue Stone (582566)

              Citation as requested: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7086572.stm [bbc.co.uk]

          • It's not always up to the creator/owner of the IP whether or not the works stay available. An author is at the whim of the publishers whether or not their work will stay in print.
          • by Culture20 (968837)

            In the UK, and a few other countries, if you have cash in a bank account and don't touch it for 15 years, the government will seize it and give it away to charity.

            That's so fucking ridiculous you made me curse. It's also probably not true.

      • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:26PM (#27478237) Homepage Journal
        the man is concerned about Google being the exclusive source of access to these books

        There is nothing from keeping anyone from getting access to these books the same way that Google did...
        • You mean except for the fact that they are co-opting copyrights on orphan books that would prevent others from doing this?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Chyeld (713439)

            They aren't co-opting anything. They don't claim copyright on the orphaned books, they simply republish them with the majority of the funds going to the copyright holder (if they can be identified).

        • by canajin56 (660655) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:44PM (#27478525)
          You mean just scanning 7 million of them and putting them online, then getting sued, and throwing enough lawyers at all the publishers to get a settlement where you don't allow in-print works to be accessed, and in exchange they grant you a license for all out-of-print works? That "same way that Google did"?
          • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday April 06, 2009 @02:03PM (#27478751)

            No, now that Google has put the brunt of their weight and money on the issue, I would dare to say the next person who comes along will simply need to pay for the scanning service and access to the library.

            In other words, Google isn't locking anyone out of anything. The only barrier to entry will be the standard "I need money to make money" barrier that has nothing to do with Google.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by cartman (18204)

            You mean just scanning 7 million of them and putting them online, then getting sued, and throwing enough lawyers at all the publishers to get a settlement

            That's actually a fairly low barrier to entry for competitors.

            To compete with google, you would need to hire 950 low-wage people to scan books for a few years. If the average person can scan 4 books per day, then they can scan 1 million books per year. You would also need some lawyers to negotiate a settlement, however you would presumably need far few

        • There is nothing from keeping anyone from getting access to these books the same way that Google did...

          FTFA:

          Since no such authorization is possible for orphan works, only Google would have access to them, so only Google could assemble a truly comprehensive book database.

          It sounds like this settlement is what's preventing any potential competitor from getting access to these books the same way Google did.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Bill Dog (726542)

          It's funny how Slashdotters completely forget what "anti-competitive behavior" means when the perpetrator is not spelled M-I-C-R-O-S-O-F-T.

          • Don't worry. In 20 years the future equivalent of the Borg will be part of the logo that the future equivalent of Slashdot will be using with articles about Google.

      • by melikamp (631205) on Monday April 06, 2009 @02:55PM (#27479517) Homepage Journal

        Yes, thanks to Google, we will have a single online database with "orphaned" books. As opposed to a non-existent online database of said books. Granted, I would rather have a non-profit government entity to maintain this library, but since librarians are not doing a diddly squat to make it happen, I will gladly accept Google's work.

        Saying that Google will have a "monopoly" is dubious, imho. As far as I understand, Google will not own copyright on any of these works, but merely will have a court decision allowing it to display them. How the hell is that bad? Up until now, no one could put these things online. Google effectively breached the wall of copyright, with a clear benefit for the public. It is not even a lesser evil we have to settle for, it is a clear win for everyone...

        ...Except for publishers, of course, who are afraid of competition from perfectly good books that are free to access. Oh heavenly muses, how will they ever sell new books if anyone can access old books with comparable content? Does it mean they will have to top them? To seek out and publish writings that are superior to the stuff that is 50 years old? Oh boy, what a gloomy future it must be for them, nothing but hard work ahead. Good bye, millions of dollars for sitting on your ass in a hot tub and frying your brain at coke parties.

        • by BitZtream (692029) on Monday April 06, 2009 @03:25PM (#27479921)

          The first guy to do something always has a monopoly on it, until someone else steps in to do so.

          So basically the bitch is, according to slashdot mentality, that since Google is doing it first, they are evil. Forget the fact that no one else is bothering. Forget the fact that it really ISN'T exclusive to Google. Forget the fact that no one is willing to make the investment to do so.

          Of course if all goes well and Google goes forward and people use it, we'll see many clones. And the clones will have the distinct advantage that Google already paid for the lawyers and retarded legal battles in an attempt to solve the problem.

          But we don't think about that here, on slashdot everything should be free for the taking, regardless of the fact that someone put a rather large amount of effort into it.

          Really, slashdot is full of a bunch of freeloaders who use 'freedom' as nothing more than a battle cry for 'Give us everything for Free because we're entitled to it even though we've done nothing to contribute!'

          Put the entire population of slashdot on an island where they have to work for themselves and come back in a week. You'll find 20 people alive hiding from the stench of the other million or so dead bodies of people too lazy to find some food or water for themselves. There were entitled to that water you know, because everything should be free.

          • Not quite so simple (Score:3, Interesting)

            by einhverfr (238914)

            What the Google Class Action suit basically does is give Google DEFAULT permission to do something that is otherwise forbidden for everyone else. This puts Google in a relatively unique position regarding copyright of orphaned works. One cannot legally get to the same position that Google is in without doing something illegal and compelling similar terms.

            This being said, I support the Google suit, and hope that it is the starting point of a dialog regarding how we address orphaned works. I hope the outcom

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is not a useful tool for mankind.

      a useful tool for mankind is something like... fire.

      or a wheel.

      This is a database of books. It is an interesting application, but it is not one that should be awarding copyright over the books in question.

      it is certainly not groundbreaking.

      in any case, I say that if a given book is public domain before this project, it should remain public domain after this project, or the library of Alexandria the parent envisions this project as will become the sole repository of thes

    • It also helps to highlight one of the major issues with the long length of copyright in the United States. Given that information is owned by the Public once it is produced and We the Public actually limit our own rights to reproduce a work for a limited period of time in the form of copyright, isn't someone witholding the work or getting this effort tangled up actually a violation of the spirit of the agreement between the creator and the Public?

      In that sense, I think what google is doing is Right. In th

    • Except that... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@ ... Dl.com minus bsd> on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:43PM (#27478511) Homepage Journal

      Those books are not yours. That's the fundamental thing. THAT PROPERTY IS NOT YOURS. If I am Joe author of a book, and Google scans it, I have every right to demand Google yank it back out. Convenience is not an excuse to violate civil rights.

      • Re:Except that... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Monday April 06, 2009 @02:02PM (#27478737)

        Except you died. Your estate wants nothing really to do with your book and the last known publication was 20 years ago.

        And now, someone actually wants to read the book...

      • Re:Except that... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Monday April 06, 2009 @02:08PM (#27478819) Homepage Journal

        Well, Joe, it's kinda late now. Let's suppose that I have a boat. Speed boat, pleasure boat, party barge, sailboat, it doesn't matter. I have a boat. I somehow manage to sink the boat. It lies submerged for months, even years. The thing is ABANDONED. Some dude comes out, spends a day or a week floating my wreck off the bottom, and brings it ashore. Do you think I retain any legal right to that boat? Or, how about your car? You fail to maintain it, and it slowly rusts away, with the rain washing your rust streak onto my property. One day, I come out and shovel up all the iron (mostly iron oxide) to haul away to a scrap yard. You think you're going to get any of the salvage money?

        Joe Author needs a reality check. Abandoned property is no longer "his".

  • It seems fine that Google could sell the books if the existing copyright has expired or can't be upheld. But there should be no problem with someone else downloading the material and reselling it or giving it out or copying it. Once the copyright expires, doesn't the work go into the public domain? Google can charge for access, but they can't charge for the work persay.

    Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <<akaimbatman> <at> <gmail.com>> on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:21PM (#27478161) Homepage Journal

      But there should be no problem with someone else downloading the material and reselling it or giving it out or copying it.

      It's not quite that easy. The original work goes into the public domain, but only the original work. Republications obtain a new copyright on the version of the work. So if Google scanned in a bunch of public domain books and distributed in their own format, they'd probably have a copyright on those digital files.

      I say *probably* because a direct scan is likely to be Yet Another Legal Gray Area(TM). The courts might decide that the digital container is sufficient transformation of the work to warrant a new copyright. Or they might decide that it's merely space shifted and deny copyright protection.

      For legal advice, please contact a real lawyer. (I just play on on Slashdot. Which is much more interesting than TV. :-P)

      • by Blue Stone (582566) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:40PM (#27478487) Homepage Journal

        "So if Google scanned in a bunch of public domain books and distributed in their own format, they'd probably have a copyright on those digital files."

        I don't think simply scanning something is enough to secure copyright - there has to be a creative artistic component before someone can secure copyright. I think the bar is set quite low, but it has to be there.

        • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <<akaimbatman> <at> <gmail.com>> on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:54PM (#27478629) Homepage Journal

          Just because you and I believe something to be true doesn't mean that a judge will agree. There will likely be quite a few factors that would play into a judge's decision. e.g. Was the scanning process completely automated or where there manual steps? Were any changes made to the layout or format of the text? Were images and/or the cover remade? Does the digital technology count as creativity added to the work?

          These questions and many others would likely play a role in any court case. How the judge decides might very well depend on the judge, the phase of the moon, and which way the wind is blowing. Thus unless you're looking to go to court, you must assume that the work is copyrighted. At least until someone is gutsy enough to prove otherwise.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Bobb9000 (796960)
            Actually, judges have already agreed, at least with regard to art: Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. [wikipedia.org]. While you are correct that a new court would have to apply precedent to see if scanning books counts as the same thing, everything I know about this field of law says that they don't have a chance in hell of getting a new copyright.

            From a practical perspective, there is some danger, because the threat of litigation from a big company can be enough to shut down a small entity just because of the cost of
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by Narpak (961733)
      I would agree with this. There is nothing wrong with charging fees to access an extensive database of works. But if Google are to be given exclusive rights to those works for the foreseeable future that would be a negative as far as public domain ownership is concerned.

      In fact I would say that long-term corporate ownership of works of literature (in particular after the author is dead and buried) is an abomination.
    • by Xaoswolf (524554)
      Gotta agree with you. Just like a Shakespeare, I can own the copy that I publish, but it doesn't stop someone else from publishing it also.

      They'll own their own data base, but someone else could do the same thing.

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:34PM (#27478375) Journal
      Sorry to nitpick:

      Google can charge for access, but they can't charge for the work persay.

      The phrase you are looking for is per se, it's latin.

      Google will be able to provide access to the material, that almost no one else can (since the books are out of print). They are free to sell access to, or to publish, those works (since no one will make a copyright claim against them for these orphaned works).

      However, Googoe does NOT have copyright on these works. Anyone else may publish them as well, and Google has no recourse against them, since copyright did not pass to Google.

      This is all fine.

      Someone could actually copypaste from Google, and publish on their own, and Google would have no legal recourse regarding copyright. However, Google might have recourse based upon their contract with the person who copied from Google... the license contract between Google and the User to access the content might(!) specifically forbid republication, in which case the User could be liable.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:17PM (#27478109)

    Honestly, this seems like Google-bashing for its own sake. Who else is making a serious effort to get a hold of these orphan books and put them out there? Last I checked, absolutely no one.

    If the choice is a monopoly over the digitized copy of these books, or letting them fade into obscurity un-digitized, do we really want to choose option B?

    • When did you last check? Apparently before 1971 since Project Gutenberg pretty much started back then. :)
      http://www.gutenberg.org/ [gutenberg.org]
    • by lfourrier (209630) on Monday April 06, 2009 @02:08PM (#27478803)
      Nobody tried to get a hold of these orphan books and put them out there, because such an activity is illegal, or a bad move.
      Normal companies didn't do it. It is illegal.
      Publisher surely didn't want to do it, because orphan works are the best. They are not competition(like public domain), and they are not accessible(unlike public domain).
      When US signed Berne convention, they stopped a very reasonnable system, where the registration obligation prevented the very existence of orphan works.
      By letting Google monopolize orphan works, one give a bonus to the player that didn't follow the rules. As a society, it is usualy a very bad idea.
    • "Who else is making a serious effort to get a hold of these orphan books and put them out there? Last I checked, absolutely no one."

      So if only a single thief is interested in ripping something off it makes it OK?

  • Orphaned? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BrokenHalo (565198) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:19PM (#27478129)
    If these books are truly orphaned, it would be vastly preferable if Google were able to find it in themselves to donate some of their vast resources to putting the works up on Project Gutenberg.

    That would go a long way towards telling the world that their intentions are honest.
    • Re:Orphaned? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jared555 (874152) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:24PM (#27478199)
      If I remember correctly Project Gutenberg only accepts books that are truly in public domain. If this was the case they could just copy the text from Google and put it on their website anyway.
    • Google usually serves raw scans of books, with raw OCR for searching. They usually limit the number of pages available for books still in copyright.

      Project Gutenberg serves books in text formats that have gone through several rounds of proofreading. The only accept books that are out of copyright, or have been released by the owners.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by PotatoSan (1350933)
      But "orphaned" works are not in the public domain. They're still protected by copyright, but no one knows who holds the copyright. It may be that no living person or existing corporate entity does. Unfortunately, thanks to copyright law, they don't just enter the public domain, and thus no one can reprint or republish them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        It may be that no living person or existing corporate entity does.

        Doesn't happen - short of a copyright holder releasing the book into public domain.

        What DOES happen is things like an author dying, the copyright passing to his estate, and the existence of the asset being unknown to the executor and heirs. The copyright has an "owner" but nobody living knows who it is and the owner and his agents are unaware of their status.

        Similarly if a corporation dissolves. Similarly if a corporation's records are flak

  • Conflicted (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Narpak (961733) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:20PM (#27478135)
    While the creation of such a database would be a good thing, in my mind, I do not think it anyone should have sole control of the works contained there in; at least not for very long. I admire and respect the financial burden such a system will cost to create and maintain, particularity during the starting phases.

    However I feel that if Google are to be given any rights over works as the ones mentioned then it should be for a limited time only. Perhaps as a reward for taking the initiate and as way for them to profit from their endeavour. But as I said, only for, say 5-10 years, after that the rights to any such material should be freely available to everyone.

    In any regards I would consider any sort of long-term or permanent rights given to Google would be a very bad thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Red Flayer (890720)

      However I feel that if Google are to be given any rights over works as the ones mentioned then it should be for a limited time only. Perhaps as a reward for taking the initiate and as way for them to profit from their endeavour. But as I said, only for, say 5-10 years, after that the rights to any such material should be freely available to everyone.

      They should not be given any rights at all. They can enforce their control over the contents via licensing.

      If I go and digitize and publish one of these orph

  • I would say.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nicopa (87617) <nico.lichtmaier@g m a i l . com> on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:21PM (#27478149)

    I would say that a monopoly of one is better than a monopoly of zero...

    • Re:I would say.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:28PM (#27478269)

      I guess I don't see why Google has a monopoly at all. Does anyone know how Google managed to get exclusive rights to orphaned books especially when, by definition, the owners of the materials weren't present for any negotiations? Why not just open the books up to everyone, including Google. If Google decides to be evil, someone else can pay to have the books scanned and charge whatever they want for them. Alternatively, just put it in the settlement that Google cannot charge for access to the orphaned material.

      It really doesn't seem like this should be that hard. There's an audience that wants access to books that no one is expecting royalties on; in an age of unlimited free copying, that should be a no brainer.

      • Especially:

        Does anyone know how Google managed to get exclusive rights to orphaned books especially when, by definition, the owners of the materials weren't present for any negotiations?

      • by ckaminski (82854)
        I don't think they are. I think what they're counting on is that orphaned works have no interested owner, and if one does show up, they'll address it then, perhaps with royalties on accessed material. If they make a best-effort attempt, they can (possibly) be absolved of willful infringement.
    • by kabloom (755503)

      This might be a case where we need to get to copyright reform one step at a time. To approve Google's deal would transform the way society relates to books, and transform the way people relate to dealing with orphaned copyrights. This could make the next step either be a competitor securing the same rights, or legislative changes to allow competitors to do the same thing.

  • GFineman (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gfineman (742243)
    I fail to see the problem. It is not as if Google is taking away the card catalogs or the inter-library loan system or anything else. It is simply adding to the existing access abilities. The libraries are afraid that Google will charge too much for access? Libraries do not buy the access and can continue to use what they have today.
  • Souls... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Extremus (1043274) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:22PM (#27478175)

    The settlement, 'takes the vast bulk of books that are in research libraries and makes them into a single database that is the property of Google,

    Funny. It sounds like Google is going to steal the soul of these book and jail them in their databases. Hehe. There is no logic in this argument. The books are still available at the respective libraries. What is the problem in making them available at other place?

  • by InsaneProcessor (869563) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:22PM (#27478179)
    Instead of bashing someone who decides to spend the money to implement a solution, why don't you just compete with them. Scan these books yourself and offer them online.

    Oh, you don't have the financial resources to pull that off and you cannot get any backers? Well, I guess you really have nothing to say then.

    Nothing to see here...move along.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dkleinsc (563838)

      My reaction to this was similar: We've gone from having in many cases 0 ways to get at these "orphaned" works to having 1 way to get at them. How is that not an improvement? Yes, having 2 or more would be better. But 1 is a heck of a lot better than 0.

      Also good would be something similar to what Lessig et al have been arguing for years: if no one is profiting from it, why not put it under CC or into public domain?

    • "Instead of bashing someone who decides to spend the money to implement a solution, why don't you just compete with them. Scan these books yourself and offer them online."

      The only "problem" that Google is attempting to solve is how to make more money for Google. Nobody has been clamoring for these books to be scanned.

  • I don't get it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:23PM (#27478185)

    What's preventing others from scanning those same books again? Yes, it's a pain in the butt, but that's exactly why Google should be allowed to ask for whatever the market is willing to bear.

    The only problem I can see if various ideas [ivanhoffman.com] for the copyright protection of databases come to pass. Then Google could indeed have a perpetual monopoly for their list of orphaned copies.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      What's preventing others from scanning those same books again?

      Google scanned all those books without asking for permission and only negotiated [license] from [book licensing people] after the fact. If someone else wants to scan those books, they're also going to have to negotiate [license] from [book licensing people].

      So Google, AFAIK, is the only organization with a license to do [stuff] with all those orphaned works.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by canajin56 (660655)
      You misunderstand. Google started scanning all sorts of books, out of print and otherwise, and making them searchable. Publishers sued. Rather than go to court, Google settled. Part of the settlement package is that Google gets rights to all of these publishers orphaned works, and I think in exchange they don't let you search in-print text, or at least, they don't let you see the surrounding text, just give you a line and page number? What's preventing others from doing the same is that first you have
  • by GPLDAN (732269) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:24PM (#27478203)
    Libraries often compete with one another on collections. They strive to be the foremost collection on some topic, maybe it's 17th century farming techniques, or modern optics. They compete and they gather rich alumni at major universities to donate private works and give them money to expand their very special collections.

    Now along comes Google. Scanning books and keeping copyright on works that have been long abandoned. Some Universities were happy to take Google's money to be part of the scanning project, but now some want to turn and bite that hand.

    If I can find a long since out of print book that no library has, or at least that no library would dare loan me, online and in a reproducible format - explain to me how that is different from assembling a rare collection in a library? Explain how the term monopoly is used in this context, because I do not think that word means what Senor Darnton from Hahh-vahhd thinks it means.

    Google is adding to the diversity of publications in the world, and giving it to mankind. What they are doing, IN ACTUALITY, is removing the monopoly that university libraries once had. So I can see why they might be upset about it.
    • Truth be told it's all bullshit. Many libraries never have the books you need, everytime I've needed a book I've had to send wait while using intralibrary loans, quite frankly I'm glad google is sucking back the worlds knowledge. In the digital age, I should be able to search a book, cut and paste text from a book, etc. You can't do that very easy with traditional deadtree books. They both have a place, but digitizing the worlds books can only be a boon for civilization as a whole. This is where knowle

    • One possibility comes to mind that might assuage the tempers of these libraries. If Google were to prominently display the name of the library the book was scanned from, even adding functionality to browse by libraries and collections, and regularly spotlighted exceptional collections on the front page libraries might start competing to have their name appear on the marquee of the modern library of alexandria by getting their rare and thorough collections scanned and submitted to the service as quickly as p

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kitgerrits (1034262) *

      Step 1:
      What if Google were to allow libraries to link their stock to the book collection?
      That way, a user could check for availability of the selected book at (local) libraries.

      Step 2:
      Thay way, the libraries that have the book get the traffic and the user can check for (nationwide) availability.

      Step 3:
      Everybody wins:
      - Google gets an index of every book ever published
      - Google can perform full-text search on every book
      - The libraries get publicity
      - People will join a library if required (profit!)

  • The implication is that Google is destroying said books after scanning. The problem is that no one nowhere has actually said this.

    AFAICT there is nothing stopping another entity from creating their own copyrightable anthology of orphaned works. Simplistic solution, yet not impossible to achieve in the real world.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by canajin56 (660655)
      No, the implication is that Google has an exclusive right to these books now. And they don't, depending on how you turn the phrase. In the sense that nobody else is ever allowed to get a license, no, it's not exclusive. In the sense that nobody else DOES have one, then yes, it's exclusive. There is something stopping another entity from creating their own anthology: The fact that Google has a license now, and nobody else does. ;) Google threw a lot of lawyers and money at the publishers to get this s
  • To orphaned books? How exactly does Google do this? If the rights holders can't be identified, I mean? If Google thinks it can scan them and make them available (on line or otherwise), fine. That might be the only way we have to gain access to some of these works. But I don't see how Google can stop a third party from scanning a copy themselves. And making it available at competitive rates wrt Google's.

    Now, I can see a problem if Google manages to obtain all (or most) of the copies of a certain work, makin

  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thyamine (531612) <thyamine@o f d ragons.com> on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:32PM (#27478341) Homepage Journal
    There are books that no one is printing anymore, we all know this, and most of us have probably wanted one at some time or another. Here is Google putting together a solution, and people are bitching? I understand the general complain of 'monopoly', but as other people have stated they aren't destroying the other books out there. If it's in a library and you don't want to pay Google, go look it up in the library.

    As for the other people who are complaining, again, go start a business and start digitizing them yourself. At face value I don't see a problem with this, they have the means to fill a niche that no one else wants/can. Why aren't publishers already doing all this? I should be able to go to a publisher's website and purchase/download any book they have rights to, but they don't, so let Google step in and attempt to create a new market.
  • "Some of Google's rivals are clearly interested in the settlement's fate. Microsoft is helping to finance the research on the settlement at the New York Law School institute. James Grimmelmann, an associate professor at the institute, said its work was not influenced by Microsoft. Microsoft confirmed this but declined to comment further."

    Microsoft used to grow by buying or copying what others do, but it doesn't work with Google. It didn't work trying to copy its search functionality, or its maps functionali

  • explain (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Khashishi (775369) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:35PM (#27478395) Journal

    So, is Google asserting copyright on the scans of the books whose copyright Google doesn't own? Could I just copy and redistribute Google's scan of the book? After all, I have as much claim to the book as Google, and the scan itself is not a creative work.

  • People, you live under a government that believes public property is a public nuisance and liability. Ownership creates both liability and responsibility, which are critical tools to governmental use and control of a thing. If they could, they'd legislate a tax on air consumption, because air shouldn't be free (they've already done this on food and water, but air remains elusive). Even at that, we have air quality standards and emissions controls and all this talk about global warming. Even things that have

  • For some reason, I'm thinking about the story of the dog in the manger. Would they rather see the books vanish into obscurity than be digitized by Google?

  • by Urd (198177) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:45PM (#27478531)

    What a load of FUD!

    - Google isn't charging for access.
    - Universities do charge for access (or membership).
    - Why wouldn't libraries find their own copies of orphaned books and include them in their catalog?

    What is really in danger here is the university library business model: charge a premium for things that should be open to the public.

    Far too many establishments seek to control access to information / and thus knowledge. I for one hope Google scans as many books/papers as possible. At least we'd be able to find them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:47PM (#27478559)

    "no competitor will ever be able to compile the comprehensive online library Google aims to create"

    Um, why not? If something is *out* of copyright entirely (not merely out of print, but actually in the public domain because the copyright term has expired) what exactly is stopping competitors from copying the same book and putting it on the web? I've seen plenty of examples of 19th-century books done that way [columbia.edu] -- people interested in those works sitting down with a scanner and laboriously scanning each page, then putting them on the web [columbia.edu]. Google a monopoly? Hardly, when every shmoe with a copy of the book and a scanner can duplicate it.

    Oh, and university libraries are the *last* people that should be complaining about this, given that they're the ones with huge collections and they COULD HAVE DONE THE SAME THING decades ago, and still could now, if they wanted to serve their customers better. Years ago they should have gotten off their lazy posteriors and scanned *everything* in their library that is out of copyright. EVERYTHING. It means they could put the books in long-term storage (save money on shelf space), preserve the books better (no broken brittle paper or book bindings from further handling), and deliver copies of these old and rare works via interlibrary loan at far less expense and time (and wear-and-tear) than running them through a photocopier over and over again. At the very least they should be doing this only once, and then saving the copy digitally. It's freaking obvious.

    Now they want to complain because google is doing their job for them? Sure, there's an important legal difference between "orphan works" and "copyright expired", but, really, why couldn't libraries have pushed for more flexibility with "orphan works" a long time ago? Some kind of broad, general license could have been negotiated. And why haven't they generally made all expired works available electronically, and let google walk into the market unchallenged?

    There's hardly grounds for complaining about something they should have been doing a long time ago.

  • by sehlat (180760)

    At the time the publishers and authors complained and sued Google, there were warnings about this happening. But the publishers and authors, who regard our pocketbooks as their property, were satisfied with the bribe... er... settlment Google offered. And only NOW, after the Big G fought alone on this front, are they complaining.

    Just curious, is the tale of the Little Red Hen, who could find no help with planting, cultivating and harvesting the corn that everybody who hadn't helped wanted to eat when the wo

  • This is a non-issue.

    "And he said that nothing prevented a potential rival from following in its footsteps â" namely, by scanning books without explicit permission, waiting to be sued and working to secure a similar settlement. "

    If the library association, or other large literary institutes wants (what they feel is) a more open version of the database, by all means, get to work scanning the millions of books.

    It is not like the paper copies are going to be under lock and key at Google. Google is creatin

  • If you don't want to pay Google's alleged "high prices" for copies of out of print books, then go to the library and scan them yourself. Or pay someone else to do it. Problem solved. Next please!

  • by rs232 (849320) on Monday April 06, 2009 @02:07PM (#27478791)
    "Now millions of orphan books may get a new legal guardian [nytimes.com]"

    Where in the text of the settlement is ownership transferred exclusively to Google?

    "Critics say that without the orphan books, no competitor will ever be able to compile the comprehensive online library Google aims to create, giving the company more control than ever over the realm of digital information"

    Where in this settlement does it forbid anyone else creating an online archive of orphan works, Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.org] for instance. Would one source of this spontaneous concern be out of Redmond?

    'at least one party nudging its way into the settlement is an Internet-issues oriented group from New York Law School .. But what does raise an eyebrow is the source of New York Law's funding [nytimes.com] on this matter: Microsoft. The chief investigator of the New York Law School project is James Grimmelmann. In an earlier career phase, associate law professor Grimmelmann worked as a programmer for Microsoft'
  • by Windrip (303053) on Monday April 06, 2009 @02:07PM (#27478797) Journal
    From TFA:

    While the registry's agreement with Google is not exclusive, the registry will be allowed to license to others only the books whose authors and publishers have explicitly authorized it. Since no such authorization is possible for orphan works, only Google would have access to them, so only Google could assemble a truly comprehensive book database.

    "No other company can realistically get an equivalent license," said Pamela Samuelson, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology.

    Her analysis of Sony V. Universal is required reading. Other articles can be found here [eserver.org]

  • There seem to be two classes of work in question here. One is out of print works for whom the rightsholders are identified. The other is what is being called "orphaned" works, for whom the rightsholders cannot be identified. The identified works are being non-exclusively licensed to Google and a new Books Rights Registry. The complaint seems to be over the non-identified works; if no one claims them, the Books Rights Registry won't sublicense them, so only Google can use them.

    This wouldn't be a problem

  • Interesting Idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Haxx (314221)

    If this doesn't cause all large publishers to steal the idea and add digitized, "out of print books" to a section of thier websites, then they deserve what they get. Publishers were just handed a fantastic business plan to expand thier companies. I'll bet that they don't do anything but hire lawyers.

  • by proxima (165692) on Monday April 06, 2009 @02:49PM (#27479425)

    On the Media [onthemedia.org], a weekly NPR show, had an interview with Robert Darnton [onthemedia.org] last week.

    Some people are clearly worried that Google is getting so big. I doubt we'll see too many companies even attempt to do the massive book scan that Google is. If/when Google tries to abuse its digital monopoly power over these books, antitrust regulators will almost certainly step in and force Google to license the data to competitors. Worrying about their potential monopoly power is hardly good reason to try to stop them at this point; some access through Google is certainly better than none.

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