"Given the copyright issues going on right now, it's a dicey time," said Danielle Tiedt, general manager of search content acquisition at MSN.
Google faces two lawsuits alleging that the search giant is violating copyright law by scanning and digitizing all or parts of the collections at the libraries at universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Oxford and Michigan, plus The New York Public Library. Last month, the
Although Google says it will offer only a few sentences from books that are copyright-protected, unless the copyright holder gives permission to show more, the lawsuits allege that making copies by scanning the entire works violates the copyright law.
To avoid such problems, the Yahoo-Internet Archive project, to be run by the Open Content Alliance, will digitize only texts in the public domain, except where the copyright holder has expressly given permission. The project also will make the index of digitized works searchable by any Web search engine, unlike Google, which will be the only search engine for the books it digitizes.
"Principally and philosophically, we are aligning with the notion that intellectual property should not be proprietarily owned by any commercial company," Tiedt said.
Microsoft has committed to paying for the digitization of 150,000 books in the first year, which will be about $5 million, assuming costs of about 10 cents a page and 300 pages, on average, per book, she said. Yahoo has said it will pay for digitization of 18,000 books, according to Tiedt.
Internet Archive, a nonprofit formed to offer access to historical collections that exist in digital format, will digitize the material.
Microsoft's MSN Web site will launch its MSN Book Search service next year and will experiment with different business models, such as pay per page, monthly subscriptions, selling e-books and advertisements, Tiedt said. "The business model will change, depending on whether (the book) is out of copyright or in copyright," she said.
MSN will offer more than the simple search of the books. For instance, the company may offer services such as allowing people to annotate works, create discussion groups and move text into productivity applications, Tiedt said.
Microsoft and Yahoo may or may not share books with each other that have been digitized, she said. "We are working on global collections."