Congressional Hearing For Google Print?

    October 26, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

Google’s list of allies in support of its massive Google Print for Libraries project is getting shorter by the day. Yesterday, the century-old National Consumers League sent a letter to Congress urging the government body to set up public hearings on the matter.

Voicing concerns of copyright, fairness to authors, “cultural selectivity,” exclusion, and censorship, the letter praises Google’s intentions before calling the search company’s actions “a straightforward violation of Federal Law.”

Sent to the offices of Sen. Lamar Smith (R, TX), Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property Chairman, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R, UT), Subcommittee on Intellectual Property Chairman, the NCL was also sure Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page received copies.

“This issue was settled by the United States Supreme Court in its 2001 decision in New York Times Co. vs. Tasini et al with respect to republication of newspaper articles in the LEXIS/NEXIS computerized database, and the same principle should apply to Google Library,” reads the letter inked by NCL president, Linda F. Golodner.

The consumer and labor advocacy group stresses not only the violation of copyright law, but also feels Google’s “opt out” policy, requiring authors and publishers to notify the Mountain View, Calif.-based company if they wish not to be included in the indexing, is too much to ask of would-be-not participants.

“as a matter of principle, the burden of obtaining the right to scan a work and make it available on the Internet should rest with the purchaser, not the seller,” the letter continues.

Though the NCL “applauds” Google’s initiative in its attempt to digitize and make available all English-language works online, the group raises another concern about the scale of the effort and the implications that logistical limitations will result in skewing the data.

“The sheer scope and cumbersome nature of the project may force Google to cut corners at some point, raising inevitable questions. To the extent that Google finds itself drawing lines for inclusion or exclusion based even indirectly on content–style, political slant, format, author, and so on–it makes itself a censor of our history and culture.”

Golodner ends her plea by calling for a public hearing on a matter that could “represent a fundamental sea change in American culture and scholarship.”

Google has also faced opposition and lawsuits from the Authors Guild, the American Association of Publishers, and almost the entire European Union.