April 22, 2011

google books, copyright, art project and magazine


Life magazine
via Google Books

I wrote about Google Books in a post earlier this week, where I gushed about what a great resource it is. Google Books has partnerships with some publishers that have led to the archives of numerous magazines being digitized and made available online. The magazines whose back copies you can read (some go back further than others) without having to pay anything include Life, Billboard, New York, Ebony, Liberty, National Parks, Prevention, Working Mother, and many, many more.

New York magazine
via Google Books
Apart from magazines, Google has a database of more than 15 million digitized books from over 100 countries in 400 language, which it has scanned, many with the permission of libraries but not always with the consent of authors. Books whose copyrights have expired are available for sale through Google Books, which also gives previews and snippets of books under copyright that it has licensed from publishers, or copyrighted titles for which it has no license.

Google's dream is to make Google Books a digital library of every book ever published, including out-of-print and "orphan" titles, and selling access to them (orphan books are those for which the copyright holders have not been established). Google's digital library would also give authors and publishers a new outlet to sell their works.

Not surprisingly, Google Books has faced many copyright suits and its future is now unclear. On March 22, 2011, a US federal judge made a landmark decision in New York against the creation of a universal digital library by Google. Citing copyright, antitrust and other concerns, US Circuit Judge Denny Chin rejected a $125 million legal settlement the company had worked out with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers which would have let Google sell access to its database. Under the 2008 settlement, Google agreed to pay $125 million to search for copyright holders and pay authors and publishers fees and royalties.

Google says it is not violating anyone's copyright, even if it scans a text without the author's permission; it cites the concept of "fair play" and says authors have the right to opt out of having their books digitized. Judge Chin says it should be an "opt in" process. Another sticking point involved orphan books (according to the dearauthor.com article, as much as 70 per cent of the books Google has scanned are orphan works), for which Google got the right to sell through the 2008 settlement. Judge Chin says the orphan issue should be one tackled by legislation instead of an agreement between private parties.

This is a very good post explaining the court decision and what's ahead
Judge Chin rejects the Google Book Settlement (dearauthor.com)

And here's a very well-argued, though completely biased, commentary against the judge's decision. The reactions to the post are as interesting and represent both sides.
Singel-Minded: To the Whingers Go the Spoils in the Google Books Decision, by Ryan Singel (wired.com)

Among the comments posted at wired.com was one from someone who identifies himself/herself as CJ Hinke from Easterwood Press in Bangkok, who says:
"As an author, translator, editor and small book publisher, I have always posted my books to Google Books for free download before the print editions. Think about it: If people like the book, they’ll probably buy one. If not, I only make about a dollar per book in profit anyway. If I’m so stingy I won’t risk losing a dollar, I should get out of the book business.

The real travesty of this decision is that, at 61, I will probably not live to see the ancient libraries of Timbuktu and Alexandria recreated by the likes of Google in my lifetime. The ancient libraries were torched by small-minded men just as Google’s has apparently been burned by Judge Chin."

Like CJ Hinke, I feel sorry at the loss of what could have been a universal digital library that would have given me access to books and text I would never otherwise get to read or see. I am very much an armchair viewer, of events, books, arts and so many other wonderful things I can witness and experience thanks to the advent of the Internet. Did you know that you can peruse the British Library's John Gutenberg bibles online? Do you know about Google's Art Project? Through it, you can view and examine hundreds of masterpieces and tour museums around the world like MoMA, the Tate and the Palais de Versailles. Sure, nothing beats seeing the real thing but how often do you get to visit New York, London or Paris?

Hopefully the copyright issues can be addressed. As for fears that Google will dominate the market, well, it is already the king of search engines. It would be lovely and ideal if a non-profit body could be the one to create a universal digital library but since no one seems to be anywhere near doing so, why thwart Google?

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by liberal sprinkles


Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Hi Grace, thank you so much for this wonderful article. When I have more time, I'll check out your links. There are some copies of Look magazine that I've been searching for and I would love to see the list of books. I wonder if they have a copy of "Baby Island" on there? Do you know about The Guttenberg project (I think that is the name, I have a link to it on my side bar under resources). It has out of print or out of copyright books that you can print off for free. A lot of homeschoolers use that resource.

I hope that you have a wonderful Easter weekend!

God bless,
Kathy M.

liberal sprinkles said...

Hi Kathy,
I don't think they have those two titles but there are some magazines for mothers. Yup, I've heard about the Guttenberg project but I've never used it as a resource - yet! Thanks for reminding me about it, I'll look it up.
Have a great holiday weekend!

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