Friday, March 27, 2009

Register of Copyrights Not Asked by Congress To Weigh in on Google Book Search?, Library Journal, 3/20/09

Via Library Journal: Register of Copyrights Not Asked by Congress To Weigh in on Google Book Search?:

"Out of last Friday's all-day Columbia University conference on Google Book Search came this interesting little tidbit: Register of Copyrights Mary Beth Peters had recommended against the Library of Congress participating in Google’s initial Library Partners program, because she wasn’t sure that Google’s indexing of copyrighted books was a fair use.

That in and of itself is not a shocker—a lot of experts are still torn over whether the plan was indeed a fair use. But as Cornell University’s Peter Hirtle noted, the real surprise is that Congress, well, just didn’t seem to care about the program.

“Most disturbing of all was Peters’s admission that not one member of Congress has asked the Copyright Office to comment on the settlement," Hirtle blogged “even though it may fundamentally change how Americans can access and use copyrighted information.”

Certainly, that insight has to make one wonder how much Congress cares about the promotion of progress at the bedrock of copyright law. Last year, Congress failed to pass orphan works legislation but passed a draconian bill stiffening infringement penalties. And while sitting out the potentially momentous discussion over copyright as raised by Google Book Search, Congress is agian considering the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act—controversial legislation that would bar public access to research funded by taxpayers, and would undo the NIH’s access policy, enacted last year.

Notably, Peters was also not asked to testify at a hearing on the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act during a congressional hearing last year—but, curiously, a former register of copyright, Ralph Oman was asked, and did testify. Oman told lawmakers that the public access policies, like the NIH’s, would harm publishers and gut copyright."

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