[Paleopsych] CHE: Publishing Groups Say Google's Library-Scanning Effort May Violate Copyright Laws
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Publishing Groups Say Google's Library-Scanning Effort May Violate Copyright
News bulletin from the Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.2.7
By JEFFREY R. YOUNG
Some publishing groups say that Google's ambitious project to scan
millions of library volumes and make them searchable could run afoul
of copyright laws, and that Google should get permission from
publishers before proceeding.
The project, announced in December, involves libraries at Harvard and
Stanford Universities, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and
the University of Oxford, in England, as well as the New York Public
Library (The Chronicle, December 14).
Google said that it would begin by scanning works that are in the
public domain and that the full texts of those books would be
accessible online through its popular search engine.
But the company also plans to scan copyrighted books in some of the
libraries. The search engine will not give users the full texts of
those volumes, but will provide up to three short excerpts, each
consisting of only a few lines of text in which a search term appears.
Google officials say that such limited use will not violate copyright
But some publishing-industry officials say that even scanning a book
and offering brief excerpts without the publishers' permission could
violate copyright because scanning the book would represent a
reproduction of the work, and the copying would have been done by a
commercial entity rather than the library that purchased the book.
Some officials also worry that some material that Google decides is in
the public domain might not be, such as books that were published in
many countries with copyright laws that are often different from those
in the United States.
Steve Langdon, a spokesman for Google, said in an e-mail interview
that the company "respects the rights of copyright holders and the
tremendous creative effort of authors, which is why we're only
allowing users to view the full texts of books when they're in the
"We will also show a few pages from a book when we have an agreement
to do so from the publisher," he wrote. "Books that are still in
copyright will show up in our search results, but users will only be
able to view very small text snippets and/or bibliographic information
until we get permission from the publisher to show full page views.
"In every case Google's presentation of the works to the public will
keep authors and publishers in mind and be well within the bounds of
copyright law," he said.
The concerns were first reported last week by the journal Nature in an
article on its Web site.
Sally C.L. Morris, chief executive of the Association of Learned and
Professional Society Publishers, said in an interview on Friday that
she had contacted Google officials last week to raise the concern that
Google's plans to scan some material might violate the rights of
academic publishers. She said she had asked for more information about
the company's plans.
"They seem to be certain that what they're doing is OK under copyright
law, but I can't understand how they think so," she said. "There are
thousands and thousands of publishers, so I can see why they wouldn't
want to" secure permission first. "But that doesn't mean there's not a
legal requirement to do it."
"It's a matter of legal principle," she said, noting that many
publishers were likely to agree to Google's arrangement if approached.
"But they haven't been asked, and so they haven't had the opportunity
to say yes or no."
Peter Givler, executive director of the Association of American
University Presses, said his group also had concerns about the
"What is very murky here is the whole rights situation, and whether
Google does or does not have the rights to digitize this material and
make it available," Mr. Givler said.
"In very general terms we are concerned," he said. "We'd just like
more information from Google." He declined to comment further,
referring additional queries to Allan Adler, vice president for legal
and government affairs for the Association of American Publishers.
In an interview, Mr. Adler was also reluctant to discuss the issue.
"It's fair to say that the Google initiative with libraries is still
being discussed within the association," he said. "In comparing notes
there are still some questions that remain."
Terry Hulbert, head of electronic development and strategy for the
Institute of Physics, an international scholarly society based in
England, said he also had questions about Google's plans. "There are
things that need to be clarified," he added. "You need to get beneath
the bonnet and look at this stuff in detail."
The society has its own database that many libraries pay to use. "We
have actually digitized all of the archived content back to 1874" for
some journals, he said. "We've spent a lot of time and money doing
Mr. Hulbert also said he worried that Google might be assuming U.S.
copyright law can guide all of its digitizing decisions. "Lots of
content that they're going to be digitizing at some of these U.S.
libraries is covered under U.K. and E.U. protection," he said.
Background articles from The Chronicle:
* Google Will Digitize and Search Millions of Books From 5 Top
Research Libraries (1/7/2005)
* Google's New Deals Promise to Realize a 60-Year-Old Vision
* Google Unveils a Search Engine Focused on Scholarly Materials
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