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Here’s a compelling piece that analyzes the recent Appellate Court decision in favor of the Google Book Project. The authors find that, contrary to the generally positive support from libraries for the outcome of the decision — the Court decided that Google’s book scanning amounted to a transformative act covered under Copyright law’s fair use provision — the decision in their opinion was a HUGE loss for libraries and public culture in general. I think that many librarians writing in favor of the decision did so with the thought that *because* libraries were “involved” as “partners” then it’s ipso facto fair use. But Yeo and Schiller point out the problems with cheering for the decision.
Their argument reminds me of the recent use of [eminent domain] — whereby a municipality has the legal right to “condemn” private property and put it to public use (like building a road) — not for public good but for private gain. See for example “A resurgence of eminent domain abuse” from the Washington Post in 2014.
Whatever you think about the Google decision, here’s a good piece of context to add to your thought processes.
Appellate Court Ruling For Google Books: Fair Use, or Anti-Democratic Preemption?. Shinjoung Yeo and Dan Schiller, Information Observatory. October 27, 2015.
Fair use is an exception in US copyright law which permits the use of copyrighted work without the permission of copyright owners. This provision has often been exercised by libraries and academic institutions as it allows for them to provide access to copyrighted materials for educational purposes; however, long before Google, the use of copyrighted works under fair use in libraries and academic institutions for educational purposes has been increasingly attacked by commercial publishers as the industry strove to tighten its control. The fair use exemption, as has been stated earlier, has been further weakened, as libraries move to a licensing- rather than purchasing model for their collections — a model in which fair use has no standing. On the surface, the court verdict on Google’s case vindicates an enlarged fair-use provision. However, it does so not on behalf of public culture or democratic accountability, but of a gigantic for-profit corporation. Its real effect is to align the law with a corporate scramble to reorganize and enlarge the information market.
Thus, this new verdict is far from a victory for the public; rather, it is a victory for digital capital and for the continuing takeover of public culture to serve proprietary commodification projects. As Google boasts, this is indeed likely to widen “access;” but only at the very steep price of tightening corporate control over information.
Fair use is a right that should attach to persons — not to corporations. A just and equitable outcome for the public would have been for the Court to require Google to relinquish its digitized library collections to libraries, and to order libraries to take back their caretaker role in the system of information provision. The actual outcome cut in an antagonistic direction. While the Authors Guild vowed to take the case to the US Supreme Court, it is far from certain that the verdict will be reversed. This verdict, therefore, is not an occasion for joy, but for the mourning this latest blow against libraries’ place in the democratic provision of public culture.
I’ve been so busy lately (research time of the term, helping to organize the first ever Stanford Open Source (un)conference…) that I’ve neglected to comment on the Google Book Search Copyright Settlement. The library blogosphere is abuzz, so I won’t add anything else, just point to some people I trust who’ve tracked on the Deal much closer than me (like Peter Brantley, Karen Coyle, John Wilkins, and James Grimmelmann; Siva Vaidhyanathan has links to them all plus some of his own commentary!) But I DID want to show the tag cloud of the agreement. Notice anything?
[cross posted on LegalResearchPlus]
“How do you find out whether a book was renewed? You have to check the U.S. Copyright Office records. Records from 1978 onward are online (see http://www.copyright.gov/records) but not downloadable in bulk. The Copyright Office hasn’t digitized their earlier records, but Carnegie Mellon scanned them as part of their Universal Library Project, and the tireless folks at Project Gutenberg and the Distributed Proofreaders painstakingly corrected the OCR.”
“Thanks to the efforts of Google software engineer Jarkko Hietaniemi, we’ve gathered the records from both sources, massaged them a bit for easier parsing, and combined them into a single XML file available for download here.”
[Hat tip to BoingBoing for this news!]
I was searching for Civil War era government documents for a History Professor, and I realized that we did not own one of the documents he sought. Before suggesting that he interlibrary loan a copy of this document, I decided to search online for a full-text digitized version. Alas, it did not exist in the digital realm, but I did find some other digitized gov docs pertaining to his research needs in Google Books. We were both elated, he because I had found what he needed, and I because so many documents I found digitized on Google Books were the same documents we had lost to mold and water damage from Hurricane Rita!
Out of curiosity, I did a Google Book search for other types of government publications and found these gems:
Illustrations of the Gross Morbid Anatomy of the Brain in the Insane (isn’t that a Cypress Hill song? Nevermind…) by the Government Hospital for the Insane.
How it Feels to be the Husband of a Suffragette (not published by the Government Printing Office, but it is a book housed in the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection in the Library of Congress).
Most of these documents were scanned at large research universities or depositories, but the quality is not always decent andcan sometimes border on the illegible. I was quite amused when I discovered a staff person’s hand digitized on this document’s cover:
However, there are bigger snafus than a digitized librarian’s hand. For example, despite government documents being in the public domain, Google Books treats most post-1922 (i.e. post-copyright law) government documents as copyrighted material by only allowing a limited view! For more details, please read James Jacobs’ post on this issue.
Despite all these issues (which have yet to be resolved), I decided to take advantage of the access to full-text, pre-1922 government documents and create a McNeese Gov Docs “Library”account in Google Books for my depository. The account also allows you to subscribe to updates of its holdings via an RSS feed. I put a link to the library account and the RSS feed on my depository’s homepage and our “Gov Guides” wiki. I’ll add more of these interesting and old documents as I come across them, especially those pertaining to Louisiana or documents that were lost to Hurricane Rita.
Here are some tips for finding gov docs in Google Books: Use Advanced Search, and in the Publisher field, type in Govt OR GPO OR “Government Printing Office”. You can also search by agency, (i.e. “Department of the Interior”) by typing the name of the agency in the Author field.
Have fun exploring and building your own digital collections, but please let me know if you find some really cool gov docs, ok?
All I’m asking for is full access for the public to government documents on Google BookSearch. These documents are in the public domain and therefore should not be limited by claims of copyright, by Google or by the Library Partners.
It looks as if Google is definitely considering all post-1923 works under copyright.