Stanford not fazed by Google Books decision

March 31, 2011, 2:29 a.m.

U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin’s Mar. 22 decision may have thwarted Google’s plans to create an online library and bookstore and rejected a $125 million settlement. But it wasn’t enough to deter some of the Internet giant’s partners, including Stanford.

“We’re continuing to scan,” said Andrew Herkovic, director of communications and development at Stanford Libraries. “We’re continuing to receive scanned versions of things back from Google, and we’re doing so for the purpose of both preservation and the future of scholarship using those digitized texts.”

The Google library and e-bookstore, which provide online versions of books that are in the public domain, aimed to give readers access to books that are out of print. Google already has snippets of certain texts but the original lawsuits were concerned that these passages infringed on copyright laws.

“What the publishers are concerned about is losing control over their revenue streams,” Herkovic said. “Once the book is out of print, no one is making any money off of that book at all unless it goes into a new edition. The publishers and authors are worried that somebody had figured out a way to make money off of their stuff after it left their hands—that somebody was Google.”

Stanford, along with several other institutions like Harvard, Oxford, the University of Michigan and the New York Public Library, primarily intend to use Google Books as a means to preserve historical texts and give their patrons increased access to scholarly works. But Google’s pet project could also give them more opportunity for text mining, or the ability to better measure word frequency and sentence structure in particular texts, Herkovic said.

Chin rejected the settlement in order to prevent Google from having a monopoly on the e-book industry. Such monopoly power would provide unfair protection for the Internet giant from competition. In his ruling, Chin suggested that Google create an “opt-in” policy instead of its current “opt-out” policy for authors and publishers.

But Herkovic asserted that such a policy would provide a significant logistical challenge. He added that some questions have been left unanswered.

For instance, Google’s recent lawsuit brought to a light an important question regarding the copyright laws of “orphan books,” or books with unknown copyright holders. These books, Herkovic said, were most likely published after 1922 and before 1972. While the majority of these books are currently in libraries, the lawsuit has generated unanswered questions regarding the copyright laws related to these orphan books.

The subsequent steps for Google remain to be seen. Both Google and the American Publisher’s Association declined to comment to The Daily. Hillary Ware, Google’s managing Counsel has publicly revealed that Google would continue to pursue its creation of a worldwide online library and bookstore.

“Like many others, we believe this agreement has the potential to open-up access to millions of books that are currently hard to find in the U.S. today,” Ware said. “Regardless of the outcome, we’ll continue to work to make more of the world’s books discoverable online through Google Books and Google eBooks.”


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