Opting Out of Copyright

I was flipping through my email this morning, and found an article in Library Journal that dealt with the Google Books Settlement. This settlement is important to libraries, because it deals with issues of copyright and Google’s access to out-of-print works. Google has offered a program called Google Books for a few years now, and in 2004, Google announced the launch of The Library Project. According to Google, “The Library Project’s aim is simple: make it easier for people to find relevant books – specifically, books they wouldn’t find any other way such as those that are out of print – while carefully respecting authors’ and publishers’ copyrights. Our ultimate goal is to work with publishers and libraries to create a comprehensive, searchable, virtual card catalog of all books in all languages that helps users discover new books and publishers discover new readers.” This far reaching initiative was met with some opposition from The Author’s Guild and The Association of American Publishers, who filed a lawsuit against Google. The Library Project was seeking to scan out-of-print works which were still under copyright, without getting permission from copyright holders. Google states that “We carefully protect copyright holders by making sure that when users find a book under copyright, they see only a card catalog-style entry providing basic information about the book and no more than two or three sentences of text surrounding the search term to help them determine whether they’ve found what they’re looking for.” If copyright holders did not wish for their works to be viewable, they could opt-out of The Library Project, but if they didn’t opt-out, then Google to catalog their works on Google Books. The Author’s Guild, the Association of American Publishers, and Google had decided on a settlement, but several others including the Department of Justice had stated their disapproval with the settlement as it stood. There was quite a bit of talk about copyright issues, Google getting an unfair advantage over other companies, and out-of-print books being in the hands of a private company instead of in the public’s hands. There were also some concerns on privacy. Well, Circuit Court Judge Denny Chin ruled that the Google Settlement wasn’t going to work as-is, and that the change that needed to take place was converting out-of-print works from an “opt-out” option to an “opt-in” option. This greatly changes the face of this settlement as things were starting to look like they were coming to a conclusion. We’ll have to keep our eyes on this, as Google being able to scan or not being able to scan millions of out-of-print works will obviously change the information scene.