Thursday, September 13, 2007

Google Book Search Project or the Human Library Search Project?

Siva Vaidhyanathan discusses how the Google Book Project threatens copyright in a short podcast, posted at First Monday (hat tip to IF Book blog). Siva says that Google is 99% certain to lose its copyright case in the courts (although he also mentions that a settlement is quite possible, so I guess he means that Google will lose or settle in a way which loses the key issue). Siva is a lawyer and he is 99% sure that Google will lose. I wonder how the case looks to the Google lawyers?

But Professor Vaidhyanathan is not a Luddite, he is very much in favour of the project of a global, universal, web-based library; but not as a private venture. He draws the comparison with the Human Genome Project. Making the universal digital library, through which all out-of-copyright information could be accessed, is worthy of national and international support.

We’re willing to do these sorts of big projects in the sciences. Look at how individual states are rallying billions of dollars to fund stem cell research right now. Look at the ways the United States government, the French government, the Japanese government rallied billions of dollars for the Human Genome Project out of concern that all that essential information was going to be privatized and served in an inefficient and unwieldy way.

So those are the models that I would like to see us pursue. What saddens me about Google’s initiative, is that it’s let so many people off the hook. Essentially we’ve seen so many people say, “Great now we don’t have to do the digital library projects we were planning to do.”....... transcript

A very interesting idea, and it would need drivers like Jim Watson, John Sulston, the NIH and the Wellcome Trust to make it happen (and the Health component will be a big part of the public justification). Digital magazines will be part of such a global library and some of their archives will be freely accessible. All published magazines should be searchable through the web and that will happen because it obviously needs to happen and because it will enormously increase their value when it does. As Siva says the next five years are going to be interesting.

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