Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mass digitization of books: Open Content Alliance is the right approach

With the Google Books lawsuit settlement likely to be decided within days, here is my take on this topic.

Libraries in recent years have been undertaking mass digitization projects, following two different approaches: working with Google to digitize the whole library's collection, including copyrighted works, or working with the Open Content Alliance under OCA principles, which include respecting the rights of content owners, and widest possible access, such as full open access for works in the public domain.

The Open Content Alliance is the right approach. Despite laudable motivations of participating libraries and Google (to expand access to the written word and preserve these books), the Google Books approach of taking works that belong to others (whether content owners or, in the case of public domain works, all of us), is just plain wrong. The impact of the proposed Google Book Settlement would mean basically a monopoly on digital books for one company, and a significant loss to the public domain. Those involved in the class action lawsuit do not represent all authors and publishers, only themselves.

Here is hoping that the Court will reject the Google Book Settlement, and that the libraries involved will abandon this approach and join the Open Content Alliance instead.