Google Opens Up About Public Domain Books
Google blocks access for users outside the U.S. to public domain books, much to the dismay of some. To make matters worse, the reasons behind this policy were something of a mystery – until now. A post on the Inside Google Book Search blog explained the company’s thinking.
“Since whether a book is in the public domain can often be a tricky legal question, we err on the side of caution and display at most a few snippets until we have determined that the book has entered the public domain,” wrote Ryan Sands, a member of the Google Book Search Support Team. “These books . . . may be in the public domain, but until we can be sure, we show them as if they are not.”
Peter Suber (respectfully) took issue with that explanation. “In most countries on Earth the duration of copyrights is the same as in the US,” he stated. “So why isn’t it easy for Google to provide access to all of those countries as soon as it decides to provide access to the US?”
“At least Google admits that these books may be in the public domain’ and that it’s temporarily treating them as if they are not,'” Suber continued. “That is, it hasn’t wrongly classified them, but only delayed classifying them. Still, in most cases, it’s hard to understand why any delay is necessary.”
Sands’s comments indicated that his team is addressing the issue. He admitted that, “while we face challenges due to the scale of our project, we’re working hard to make the public domain verification process faster and more efficient.”