At the “D is for Digitize” Conference at New York Law School on October 9, Pamela Samuelson of the University of California Law School debated Paul Courant, Dean of the University of Michigan Libraries, regarding the settlement of a class action lawsuit filed by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers against Google. The settlement creates a registry through which copyright owners of out-of-print books can submit claims to Google, and allows Google to sell digital versions of the books, giving 63% of revenues to copyright owners.

Samuelson and Courant agreed that large-scale digitization of books is a positive development. However, Samuelson argued that price gouging is a concern, given that Google is the only company providing such a product and service. She noted that most librarians she had spoken to would have preferred libraries had undertaken such a project themselves, and remarked that there is nothing to prevent Google from selling the corpus of digitized books to another company, which might not honor Google’s spirit of providing relatively open access.

Courant responded that laws were in place to protect the pubic against “egregious behavior” by Google, and that the settlement gave users free access to about 20% of each digitized book’s contents. Courant also pointed out that libraries like the University of Michigan would still maintain print copies of digitized material, and that Google Books would complement, not replace, print collections.

Update: On October 10, Google announced that more than 1,860 issues of LIFE magazine from 1936 to 1972 are available in full-text through Google Books.

Advertisements