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“The Google Book Settlement: Love it or leave it.”

The proposed Google Book Settlement was on the agenda at the recent 2009 International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) Conference. Among other speakers, Jonathan Band of gave an overview of the Google Book Settlement. Band described the Google is scanning a corpus of some 30 million book, of which 20% of these books may be in the public domain, 5% are in print, and 75% are out of print. [11sept09]

Band described that the settlement would create a collecting society called the Book Rights Registry. The Registry would collect fees for in copyright, out of print books and distribute the monies to rightsholders who have registered under the settlement. He said that the settlement allows rightsholders to remove books from the settlement, and that the Court in the Southern District of New York still needs to approve it.


Band went on to briefly describe the public access service, which will provide access to the complete database of books at one terminal per public library building, and one terminal for each 10,000 students at the university library. He explained that the participating libraries – those libraries that provide to Google books for scanning –will a get digital copy of each book that Google scans. Upon receipt of these copies, the libraries release themselves from copyright liability, but need to implement stringent security measures so that the copies do not leak out. Also, the universities are restricted in what they can do with the copies – in essence the copies returned to the universities is almost like a dark archive. But, as the books come out of copyright, the libraries will have them in digital form and will be able to share them freely.


Jon Orwant (on behalf of Google) claimed that in the end, we all need better information and metadata about books. We need to know which are in copyright, who is the author, etc. He said that the settlement effectively decreases the number of orphan books–those books whose author can no longer be located. Orwant estimated that 10% of the books Google has scanned may be orphan books. He said the number of orphan books will be low because most of the books that Google is scanning come from libraries, and that the library has seen some utility in collecting it and preserving its metadata.


Jim Neal (University Librarian at Columbia University) said that there are clear business interests throughout the proposed settlement–there will be ads, institutional subscriptions, individual purchases. Speaking specifically about the institutional subscription, Neal said that libraries cannot afford a repeat of how electronic journals are priced and marketed to universities. Neal also said that the Google agreement raises major public policy concerns, including fair use, orphan works, user privacy, intellectual freedom and censorship, the knowledge divide, and antitrust.

Read full article on this ad-hoc website managed by the American Library Association.

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