The noose continues to tighten around Google Book Search as legal actions from all quarters restrict the source material that can be digitized and the uses that Google can make of them.
Google Book Search is a service from Google that searches the full text of books that Google scans, converts to text using optical character recognition, and stores in its digital database. Google limits the number of viewable pages and attempts to prevent page printing and text copying of material under copyright. Still, other interests have sought to restrict Google’s access to books, and to restrict the ways in which Google can use them. At this point, Googles initial objective of cataloguing and digitizing all the world’s books is in tatters.
Last week, a judge ruled that Google has no rights to books in non-English-speaking countries, limits the way Google can make use of the digitized books, and requires Google to seek out copyright holders who do not come forward on their own, according to a CNET story. There have also been changes in how the Book Rights Registry operates, requiring that they now hold unclaimed funds for 10 years, instead of five. After that time, the funds will go to nonprofits in the English speaking countries. The Book Rights Registry is an entity to be founded as part of a settlement of the lawsuit between the Authors Guild and Google over the Google Books scanning project.
Google’s response to the new restrictions was made by Dan Clancy, Google Books engineering director. He said “The changes we’ve made in our amended agreement address many of the concerns we’ve heard (particularly in limiting its international scope), while at the same time preserving the core benefits of the original agreement: opening access to millions of books while providing rightsholders with ways to sell and control their work online. We’re disappointed that we won’t be able to provide access to as many books from as many countries through the settlement as a result of our modifications, but we look forward to continuing to work with rightsholders from around the world to fulfill our longstanding mission of increasing access to all the world’s books.”
The original idea was a good one: collect all of the world’s books (and their knowledge) in one place, a sort of grand world library, a Library of Alexandria on steroids. Other interests, perhaps jealous of Google’s involvement, have filed lawsuit after lawsuit to water down the project and receive small slices of the pie. By now, the idea has been so reduced and complicated that the project no longer resembles the original idea.
Long live the greedy imitators and their attorneys.