Google's goal to digitize every text on the planet and make them all available online is an appealing goal on its face. Afterall, wouldn't we all like to settle down in an easy chair with our iPads and pull up a centuries-old moral tale rescued from an Egyptian papyrus or a love story transcribed in a lost Ethiopic writing system?
What would be the impact if the world had access to most of the lost texts of history? All of that access would be great, but would we read those texts?
In any case, I worry that the outcome of Google's agreement with publishers and writers would be that Google will gain a monopoly on the access to the world's knowledge bank, as some have called such a collection of books. If Google had gotten its way, I am concerned that it would be in a position to charge whatever price it wants for access to these works, and ultimately Google would do just that, making the books still out of the reach of most readers.
Going forward, I think important protections must be added to the settlement plan that Judge Denny Chin rejected. These protections must ensure that Google does not have the exclusive rights to digitize the world's books. For example, fair competition should be protected so that other tech companies can also digitize any orphan or lost book. A "lost" copyright owners' rights should be protected, as well.
Look forward to reading about how Google and other stakeholders revise the settlement plan according to Judge Chin's guidelines. Here's the story about the Judge Chin's decision reported in the NY Times.
Judge Rejects Google’s Deal to Digitize Books
By MIGUEL HELFT
Published: March 22, 2011
Google’s ambition to create the world’s largest digital library and bookstore has run into the reality of a 300-year-old legal concept: copyright.
The court’s decision throws into legal limbo one of Google’s most ambitious projects: a plan to digitize millions of books from libraries, such as this rare, antique Bible.
Judge Denny Chin said the legal settlement with publishers and authors would have granted Google a “de facto monopoly.”
The company’s plan to digitize every book ever published and make them widely available was derailed on Tuesday when a federal judge in New York rejected a sweeping $125 million legal settlement the company had worked out with groups representing authors and publishers.
Read the full story at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/technology/23google.html
Another take on the story from the L.A. Times:
The rejected Google e-books settlement: What it means and what comes next