Google's book plan drawing ire

Tech Culture

Yet another publishing industry group is marshalling support to put a crimp into Google's plans to make the contents of many books available via its search engine.

The latest group to join the protest against Google's Library Print Project is the Text and Academic Authors Association, which maintains that the company's plan to scan the collections of five major libraries and make those materials accessible through its search engine is "backwards" and "in conflict with both the spirit and the law of copyright."

The TAA joins at least two other publishing groups that have criticized Google's plan, the Association of American Publishers and the American Association of University Presses. All three of the groups contend that Google is essentially ignoring copyright law by making the published works available freely over the Internet.

Google, which is currently refusing all forms of comment to, said this week that it has expanded the Library Print Project to offer people in American Samoa, Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Mauritius, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda and the United Kingdom access to the service.

However, Google has agreed to temporarily halt the scanning of copyright-protected books into its database. The company is working on the project with libraries at Stanford University, Harvard University and other schools.

According to Richard Hull, TAA's executive director, Google's claim that the tool only allows people to view select passages in books where specific search terms appear provides unacceptable levels of copyright protection. Hull said that the system makes it easy for users to unearth major pieces of certain texts and the entirety of other publications, including his own copyrighted works.

"Google says it offers clips, but with the system they use the whole book is essentially available, simply by searching on a title or keyword," said Hull. "What Google has done is circumvent permission; the common ground here is the pre-existing (copyright law). If you want to have a copy of the book, you ask whoever holds the copyright."

Google has maintained that it is giving authors and publishers the ability to opt-out of the library scanning program, but Hull believes that putting the burden on copyright holders to get in touch with the company is an "onerous requirement."

"We don't like the opt-in approach," he said. "For each book that is under copyright, Google should be forced to seek permission, I'm not sure why existing laws don't apply here.

Hull said that the TAA is seeking a meeting with the presidents of the universities involved in the Google project to convince those leaders that it is in their interest to help better protect copyrights. He said that the project could also have a detrimental effect on institutions of higher learning by cutting into the money universities generate by publishing text books and selling the volumes to students.

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