The Friday Forum: Digitizing Books and the Google Book Search Settlement

The potential for a global digital library is increasingly viewed as one of the most exciting opportunities of the Internet age.  Countries are working to digitize their works (I wrote four years ago about the possibility of Canada doing so) and the private sector has been active as well.  By far the best known – and most contentious – initiative is the Google Book Search initiative.  Working with university libraries around the world, Google has been digitizing millions of books.  The Google Book Search initiative led to a pair of U.S. lawsuits over whether the plan qualified as fair use, which in turn led to a settlement with implications for authors around the world.

This week's Friday Forum takes a look at the digitizing issue with particular focus on Google Book Search.  It starts with Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive and his vision for building a free digital library.  The talked was delivered at the EG Conference in 2007.

Google Book Search has emerged as the lightening rod for many of these issues.  Before the settlement, the debate centered on whether it qualified as fair use under U.S. copyright law.  Professor Larry Lessig provided his view in this 2006 talk.

Two author groups disagreed with Lessig's analysis leading to a pair of lawsuits. The parties reached a complicated settlement last fall.  There is a lot available on the settlement – the documents themselves, commentary (EFF, James Grimmelman, Robert Darton, Pam Samuelson, Kahle)  Samuelson expanded on her thoughts on the settlement in this recent talk at the University of North Carolina.

While many of these commentaries have been critical of the settlement, a recent debate in Washington called Copyright, Content and Class Action Lawsuits: A Debate on the Google Book Search Settlement provides a fuller sense of the various perspectives on the deal.


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