Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why #Google Books is a breath of fresh air

At #Europeana, there was a track on the first day about the risks and rewards. This turned out in a big FUD fest about copyrights. This negative stance was later explained as "bringing a sense of reality to the party". The problem is the current acceptance of copyright practices. Copyright holders claim rights to exploitation and are wilfully blind to any responsibilities.

The Google books project very much fulfils the responsibilities of copyright holders. As it scans the books that are contained in libraries, it ensures that these books are preserved in a digital format.

It makes these books available on the Internet. This is great news for books that are already in the public domain. The best news is that books that are considered "orphans" and books that are still in print are also scanned. Google seeks active cooperation for books in this category, it provides methods for people to buy such books either as a "dead wood" or as a digitital copy.

In the United States there is agreement on a method that allows Google to sell orphan works where the copyright holder is missing. As there is no such provision for Europe, Europeans will have less access to their cultural heritage.

The FUD around copyright damages the availability of knowledge, it does not help with the exploitation of books. Optimisation of access to our cultural heritage trumps the opinion of copyright holders where they do not take responsibility and provide an adequate service.
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