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Brantley Calls Out Google

In his blog yesterday, Peter Brantley discusses the contract between Google and the CIC libraries, which was signed just about a week ago:

A colleague in Europe recently forwarded to me the Google agreement with the CIC libraries. Even though I had been told this new agreement had some very different language from that in prior contracts, it was still eye-opening reading.

Simply put, the CIC libraries are contributing in-copyright material to Google for scanning, but for the first time (known to me), they will not get a copy back.

Brantley goes on to discuss how this may well be a sop to publishers, who have been quite concerned about the copy that the libraries have been getting of in-copyright or dubious-copyright material. However, in the case of the CIC libraries, the copy goes into escrow until it becomes public-domain.

I think the CIC agreement is a significant enough departure from the prior public contracts that we must take notice of its suggestions that the relationship between Google and publishers is maturing, and that Google is more cautious of the distribution of In-Copyright material than they ever have been before.

That said, Brantley concludes that if the contracts are challenged by any of the universities at any point, the litigation will prove so expensive that anyone else who wants to get into the digitization game will be discouraged because of the cost of playing in the turbulent copyright-law field.

And that to me is potentially the saddest loss, should such an arrangement come to be realized. Because in real terms, across this vitally important collection of humanity?s literature and thought, of all the ways of thinking about books and working with ideas on the Web, we might be left with only one way.

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