Thursday, December 16, 2004

Google Library

As you may have heard, Google is going to digitize the contents of several libraries and make them publicly available. While this is an admirable task, I think the press it has received is a little too much.

The announcements often talk about the idea that the public will really win from this, that it sort of turns copyright on its head - wrestling control away from the publishers and giving it back to the people. And others think that Google will just increase its level of copyright infringement.

The reality is you probably don't care about the books they'll digitize.

You will only get full access to books whose copyright has lapsed. Copyright has only lapsed on books that are 75 years old or so. Remember the Mickey Mouse copyright battle in the courts (aka Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act? Well, it keeps books in the hands of the publishers. Most people really don't care about books that were published at the turn of the century. Seriously, when was the last time you picked up a book back then?

Any queries that hit newer books (the ones you read) you'll get a couple lines of context, which is nice, but it's not turning copyright on its head or somehow making the books available to you and me.

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