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Google Claims to be the Lone Defender of Orphans: Not lone, not defender

At a press conference that Google held today, Techcrunch reported these statements by Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt. They deserve correction.

Google Founder Sergey Brin said: “[T]he companies that are making objections about out of print books are doing nothing for out of print books, MSFT and Amazon.”

This is twisted at best. There are around 400 objections to the settlement objecting to Google’s treatment of out-of-print books– companies, libraries and even countries. And many of us are objecting because we have been working together for years on the mass scanning of out-of-print books– and have worked to get books online for far longer than Google– and Google’s “settlement” could hurt our efforts. A major part of our efforts have concentrated on changing the law so everyone would benefit.

The Internet Archive’s effort to free “orphan works” (a name that I coined in the books context for when the rightsowner is unknown or not available to negotiate for use of the work), had been an active project for years before Google announced they were scanning library books. As early as 2002 the Archive was participating in the Million Books project when we acquired a hundred thousand books for scanning. Because many of these books wound up being orphans, their digitization was partial and significantly delayed. Today, the Million Books project holds over 1.4 million books that have been scanned at public expense, but are not publicly viewable because of the lack of clarity on orphan works.

In March of 2004, the Internet Archive filed a suit in a Federal Court in an attempt to free the Orphan Works in a challenge of current U.S. copyright legislation.

Google announced their library scanning project in December 2004 — therefore, they did not even publicly start until the Gordian Knot of orphan works had been a very public and ongoing problem for those of us already trying to make books available to the public.

Google’s CEO Schmidt said the opponents should: “propose an alternative to solve the problem”

There is an alternative, and they know it — orphan works legislation — that up until the last session of Congress had been working its way through the House and Senate. It was not perfect, but was getting close to what we need. Best yet, it passed one house — at least until Google effectively sideswiped the process with their settlement proposal. The settlement has been seen as solving the orphan books issue, which has served to enervate efforts to pass a bill. If Google were to abandon its attempt to grab these books for its own private gain, then technology companies and libraries could speak with a strong voice, speaking in unison, working together to get proper legislation passed.

That is the alternative and Google could help, and I hope now does help, and stop hurting the process.

Lets free the orphans, not have them pass from their legal limbo into a life controlled by Google and its proposed Books Rights Registry.

Orphan Works and Mass Scanning Timeline:

Million Books scanning partially halted based on this problem: 2002.
Public Domain Enhancement Act to deal with this introduced: June 2003.
Orphan Works complaint filed: March 2004.
Google library scanning was announced in December 2004.
Copyright Office starts formal inquiry into Orphan Works Jan 2005.
proposed legislation from them on Jan 2006.
Google sued Sept 2005
Orphan Works Act introduced to Congress May 22, 2006.
Archive and Libraries Announce out-of-print scanning October 2007.
Orphan Works Act 2008 passed in Senate: Sept 2008.
Google Settlement announced Oct 2008.

Originally posted on The Open Content Alliance Blog by brewster.
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Written by internetarchive

October 8, 2009 at 4:09 am

Posted in News

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