Saturday, October 24, 2009

OpEd: Proposed Google book settlement leaves libraries' rights in question; San Jose Mercury News, 10/22/09

OpEd: Melinda Cervantes and Jane Light, San Jose Mercury News; Proposed Google book settlement leaves libraries' rights in question:

"The problem with the initial proposed settlement is a lack of specificity about how public libraries throughout the United States would be able to provide access to Google Book Search for millions of citizens. Would each library, regardless of its size and number of users, only be allowed to have one computer that could be used to access the Google Book Search?

What about access for the many library cardholders who use their home or work computers to "visit" the library's online resources? Would they be shut out?

Would the public be required to give up anonymity and privacy in order to explore Google's digitized library? Who would hold this information, and what assurance would library users have that the data would not be used for commercial purposes?

What would be the cost to libraries to access Google's Book Search — and should they have to pay anything at all, considering that much of Google's collection is material already in the public domain, and many of the books they are scanning come from publicly funded libraries?

These are troubling questions, and not just for librarians. They get to the heart and soul of what libraries are all about: equal access to information for everyone and a guarantee of privacy.

More people than ever are coming to their local libraries for resources. Some are budding inventors and entrepreneurs who are seeking inspiration for the next great innovation. Some are self-motivated independent learners who want to read, research and learn just for the fun of it. And, of course, many are students who rely as much on the public library as their school library for access to the world of information. The needs of the public are equally important as the intellectual property rights of authors.

So far, the Google settlement is being treated as if it were just another private litigation. It's not. Google's digitized library represents a huge worldwide public policy issue with complex, significant impacts that need further exploration."

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