Google Print Troubles UK Childrens Hospital

    November 9, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

The latest controversy surrounding Google’s ambitious Print for Libraries project, where the aim is digitize and make available online all works of literature, comes after a heart-string tugging plea from a British hospital for terminally-ill children that receives much of its revenue from its copyright of Peter Pan.

London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children was granted United Kingdom copyrights to J.M. Barrie’s classic work Peter Pan by an act of Parliament in 1929, a grant extended indefinitely in 1988. The copyright generates millions of pounds of income for the hospital.

In the United States, Peter Pan is considered a work in the public domain, which gives Google carte blanche to scan and redistribute at will within US borders.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Google do this, but it will rob the hospital of a major core of its charity revenue,” a hospital spokesman told ZDNet.

Though copyright law may limit Google to providing Peter Pan only on its US site, it is fair to say that it wouldn’t be difficult to access it abroad. Project Gutenberg has already indexed Peter Pan with the disclaimer that use of the book is restricted to within US borders only.

Google has several options in dealing with the matter. The ever-growing search company would be within its rights as an American company to ignore the hospital’s concerns altogether-a response that, from a public relations standpoint, probably isn’t the best course of action.

It could extend the “opt out” program to Great Ormond Street Hospital, allowing them to block access, aside from providing the much talked about “snippets” of copyrighted works, even in the United States where Peter Pan is public domain. This may set a precedent, however, the company would rather not set.

The most likely approach (though it is hard to say as Google did not return requests for comment) is that the scanning and making available of Peter Pan will proceed with the same consideration provided by Project Gutenberg, allowing use only in the US, while giving Great Ormond Street the chance to opt out in the UK.