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Book Search Praised From Lions Den

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Google’s Book Search project got major kudos from University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman speaking from within “the lion’s den” also known as the Association of American Publishers (AAP). The AAP launched a lawsuit against Google in October 2005 alleging copyright infringement as a result of the search company’s massive book digitization project.

In her speech, Coleman called Google’s project “legal, ethical, and noble.” The UM President, whose school’s library was picked as one of several libraries to participate in book scanning, was invited to speak by the AAP.

Coleman said Google Book Search was:

“Legal because we believe copyright law allows us the fair use of millions of books that are being digitized. Ethical because the preservation and protection of knowledge is critically important to the betterment of humankind. And noble because this enterprise is right for the time, right for the future, right for the world of publishing, right for all of us.”

The librarians at UM were already scanning books “long before” Google approached the university, said Coleman.

“As one of our librarians says, We believed in this forever.’”

Since Google announced the project (once called Google Print for Libraries), the company has been met with fierce reactions from European nations fearing an over-Anglicized slant on available information, and criticism and lawsuits from the Authors Guild and the AAP over intellectual property and copyrights.

Google has stated it will make available full copies of only books in the Public Domain, or books published prior to 1922 in the US and non-copyrighted books like ones supplied by the government.

Books still in copyright will be scanned from the libraries of the University of Michigan, Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, and the New York Public Library. Only snippets of text from copyrighted works will be available, displayed in context around search terms. Google cites Fair Use precedents to defend the scanning.

Publishers have expressed concerns that digitizing the books, or making copies of them for display, is fundamental copyright violation; that Google did not attempt to seek author and publisher permission before proceeding; and that Google stands to make money from the project without passing royalties to authors and publishers. Some have called for Congressional hearings on the matter.

In addition to Fair Use, Google states that it has no plans to advertise alongside provided snippets of material.

Coleman began and ended her speech referencing the 3rd President of the United States Thomas Jefferson and his love for books.

“Thomas Jefferson would have loved Google Book Search. He believed in contemplating every possible idea. He advocated the diffusion of knowledge, and the power of universities to make that happen.”

The main idea of her defense centered on the benefits of preservation, open access, public education, technology, and the rights of book owners.

“It means stepping up, looking forward, and saying: Let’s do it.’”

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Book Search Praised From Lions Den
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