Google’s online library should be free and fair

The company plans to charge users for accessing copyrighted books and sell advertisements.
August 04, 2009

While the Internet has transformed much of the information world, books have dawdled behind.
The Kindle is available, but paperbacks still outsell their electronic counterparts. Google may change that. Millions of out-of-print books have already been scanned, and Google has reached an agreement with writers and publishers to make them widely available for free.
The worries of Google’s online library doing this include copyright, privacy and monopoly concerns. Google’s idea is to create an online library accessible anywhere an Internet connection is available.
Google has made errors, including mistakenly scanning a number of books with copyright policies still in place. The writers and publishers sued, and a settlement was reached.
This project has the potential to create a new interest in millions of out-of-print books. These books would be available at no cost at public libraries, giving college students, journalists, writers and stay-at-home moms access to the same books as Ivy League professors.
If the work is public domain or out of print — in which case the authors wouldn’t be making any money anyway — it seems only right for Google to scan it online. Otherwise, the work could die.
The more reading material available the better, as long as writers, publishers and distributors are fairly compensated for their work. Google appears to be willing to do that.
Privacy becomes the main concern. Google would have the ability to collect data on what books people choose and create a record of people’s political views, fetishes and other information. Google needs to be clear about how and to what extent they will respect privacy. If reading is a gift and libraries are free, Google should also cost zero.

This editorial, accessed via UWire, was originally published in The Daily Cougar at the University of Houston. Please send comments to letters@mndaily.com.

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