Google's book search the legal settlement over copyright with authors and publishers in 2008 https://www.abc.net.au/rn/rearvision/stories/2010/2797085.htm https://www.abc.net.au/rn/rearvision/stories/2010/2797085.htm The Association of American Publishers, which represents some of the world's biggest publishing houses, including Penguin and Simon and Schuster, is suing Google over its claims to create a giant online library. Robert Darnton: When Google first began to digitise books, they came to Harvard and three other libraries in the US saying, 'Could we digitise your collections?' We said at first (this was before I arrived) 'Yes, indeed, that is, our collections of books in the public domain', but we drew the line at books that were protected by copyright. However, Google then went on to digitise copyrighted books in several other libraries, and they do it in assembly-line fashion, you know, they will take a whole shelf of books, one shelf after another and simply scan them at a terrific rate, so they are not doing any fine-grained selecting of what it is that they digitise. They're simply going after everything, including things in print. The problem of the settlement is that in essence, two monopolies were created, one for Google and one for the Book Rights Registry, and the reason these monopolies were created falls back again to the nature of the class action settlement, because many of the books in the settlement will never be claimed by authors and publishers. There is no-one to speak on behalf of those books, and yet if another party, a third party, such as the Internet Archive, or a university, attempted to digitise those books and make them available for sale or other access, that an institution would open itself up to a lawsuit for copyright infringement, should that rights holder, the unknown author, or the unknown publisher, suddenly come forward to claim their book. A university, or the Open Content Alliance, is not released from liability should a publisher suddenly appear to take a claim against the book. So for institutions like the Internet Archive, widespread digitisation of these works, of which there's no known author or publisher, actually raises a significant risk of lawsuit. But for Google, because of the class action, all future claims by rights holders would be extinguished, and that means that Google, and Google alone, could sell access to the books, could sell subscriptions to the books, and could utilise the books in increasing the features of their web search product, in ways that no-one else in the world could do. And this enables Google, and Google alone, to reap the benefits of millions of books that are unavailable to any other party, because no-one else is a member of the class action suit. What concerned us was the main feature of the settlement and the one that's produced the most controversy, namely an institutional subscription database. Now what that meant was that Google would take all of these books covered by copyright from the great research libraries of the United States, combine them into a massive database which already has reached more than 10-million titles, and could go as high as 20-million titles, I mean a simply stupendous source of information, and then sell subscriptions for access to this database to various institutions, notably universities. So we were faced with the possibility of the commercialisation of our holdings, and a new kind of library combined with a bookstore, all of it in digital form, and we had to decide whether we thought this was in our interest, but above all, was it in the interest of the public. It was clear that this digital database for which we would subscribe, was going to cover works in copyright. Therefore, it was in the interests of the authors and the publishers that they get some income from these works. It was also important to Google, and Google attached advertisements to them as well, discreet advertisements but nonetheless these digitised works would serve as vehicles for commercial purposes. We therefore were faced with what you could see as the massive commercialisation of our holdings. Now the first responsibility of a library is to make books available to readers, and that is our mission, basically. It's not to make money, but the first responsibility of Google is of course to its own shareholders. It's got the responsibility to turn a profit, and it turns astonishing profits, so this was a massive corporation that was going to use assets, books, that we had built up over the centuries, for a commercial purpose. Now should we subscribe to that? Well, we hesitated, because on the one hand, it is a magnificent opportunity to make almost the entirety of the world of literature available everywhere, so that small colleges, public institutions of all kinds, not just in the US but around the world, could for a reasonable price, if the price were reasonable, have access to this immense world of learning. And I found that just exhilarating and wonderful. But the negative side was Google is a monopoly; monopolies tend to charge monopoly prices, the current leaders of Google may be public spirited, but someone else might take over Google in the near future. After all, it's only existed since 1998, and therefore we need some guarantees built in to prevent price gouging. And price gouging, as you may know, is something that has occurred in the world of libraries. The prices of periodicals, serials especially in the hard sciences, have spiralled out of control and they've wreaked havoc with the budgets of libraries, so we are very sensitive to the danger of monopolistic pricing and at the same time I think we are very concerned with the general good of the public. Robert Darnton: Google's strength is in the sheer accumulation of information and its extraordinary ability to do rapid searches using secret algorithms to mobilise that information in such a way that it answers precisely the needs of the user. So Google now has information on certainly everyone in the US, and a lot of the people scattered around the world, information of many kinds. They have information about your house, where it's located; they have information about your consumption habits. Every time you use a Google search not just for books but for other things, you produce information that Google stores, and therefore Google can use what it has in its great database of books along with other information in order to develop an extraordinary profile of you as an individual. And that I think is dangerous. After all, in this country, in libraries, we do not want to give over to the government information about who reads what books. Those who formerly objected to the proposed Google Book Settlement included the French and German governments, European publishers, authors and copyright holders, as well as a US coalition calling itself the Open Book Alliance, made up of library associations and non-profit groups like the Internet Archive, as well as some of Google's competitors like Microsoft and Amazon. Keri Phillips: On November 13th last year, Google filed a modified version of the settlement. Although not significantly different from the original agreement, most foreign language books were now excluded, and only books published in Britain, Canada and Australia would be scanned unless their authors or publishers opted out. But the negative side was Google is a monopoly; monopolies tend to charge monopoly prices, the current leaders of Google may be public spirited, but someone else might take over Google in the near future.