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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

More on GBS

Here is another good post on the Google Book Settlement decision from IHE. Kolowich quotes Pamela Samuelson, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Joseph Esposito, John Wilkin, and others.

  • Please Refine Your Search Terms, by Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher Ed (March 23, 2011).

    “The Google Book Search initiative envisioned in the [agreement] is not a library,” the judge wrote in another footnote, quoting Samuelson directly. “It is instead a complex and large-scale commercial enterprise in which Google — and Google alone — will obtain a license to sell millions of books for decades to come.”

The Google Books Settlement

The best analysis I have read so far of the court’s decision on the Google Books Settlement is from Barbara Fister:

  • March Madness: Judge Denny Chin Rejects the Google Settement, by Barbara Fister, Inside Higher Ed (March 23, 2011)

    …The judge also gave a nod toward the Department of Justice’s complaint that the class action took what was a copyright complaint and turned it into a proposal for a profitable and far-reaching business endeavor. The Google project would cease being a search engine and instead become a retail platform; not a virtual library, but a bookstore, selling books that could not legally be bought from any other vendor

    …Thanks to the continual erosion of the public domain through repeated copyright extensions, we’ve made a large portion of our cultural history virtually inaccessible. Congress, which is constitutionally authorized to make copyright decisions, has failed to make reasonable arrangements to let those books be used to “promote the progress of science and useful arts.”

US Copyright office no fan of google book settlement

Building on our previous post about today’s House hearing on digital books, it appears that Marybeth Peters, head of the US Copyright Office, is not supportive of the google book settlement. In written testimony (PDF) before the House Judiciary Committee, she wrote that the settlement…

“…inappropriately creates something similar to a compulsory license for works, unfairly alters the property interests of millions of rights-holders of out-of-print works without any Congressional oversight and has the capacity to create diplomatic stress for the United States.”

For more, see today’s Wallstreet Journal blog: “Copyright Office No Fan of Google Books Settlement.”

September 10: House Hearing on Digital Books

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “Competition and Commerce in Digital Books” at 10 a.m. tomorrow, September 10. The hearing will be webcast; the link is on the committee’s hearings calendar page.

ALA has some information available on its site. See:
Library Associations submit testimony… and the ALA Google Book Settlement page.

Tell Google Book Search to protect reader privacy

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), those defenders of online free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights, have begun an action to tell Google to protect reader privacy. Please sign the petition and send a clear message to Google CEO Eric Schmidt to protect reader privacy.

You shouldn’t be forced to pay for digital books with your privacy. Tell Google it needs to develop a robust privacy policy that gives you at least as much privacy in books online as you have in your neighborhood library or bookstore. Google must:

  • Protect your reading records from government and third party fishing expeditions by responding only to properly-issued warrants and court orders, and by letting you know if someone has demanded access to information Google has collected about you.
  • Make sure that you can still browse and read anonymously by not forcing you to register or give personal information and by deleting any logging information for all services after a maximum of 30 days.
  • Separate data related to Google Book Search from any other information the company collects about you, unless you give it express permission.
  • Give you the ability to edit and delete any information collected about you, transfer books from one account to another without tracking, and hide your “bookshelves” or other reading lists from others with access to your computer.
  • Keep Google Book Search information private from third parties like credit card processors, book publishers, and advertisers.

And since Google is clearly angling itself as a “library” — even publishing a “Google librarian newsletter”! — I would ask all who submit an EFF petition to include the American Library Association’s (ALA) Library Bill of Rights and a link to the ALA Intellectual Freedom Manual, which states:

Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association. The courts have established a First Amendment right to receive information in a publicly funded library. Further, the courts have upheld the right to privacy based on the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. Many states provide guarantees of privacy in their constitutions and statute law. Numerous decisions in case law have defined and extended rights to privacy.

In a library (physical or virtual), the right to privacy is the right to open inquiry without having the subject of one’s interest examined or scrutinized by others. Confidentiality exists when a library is in possession of personally identifiable information about users and keeps that information private on their behalf.

Protecting user privacy and confidentiality has long been an integral part of the mission of libraries. The ALA has affirmed a right to privacy since 1939. Existing ALA policies affirm that confidentiality is crucial to freedom of inquiry. Rights to privacy and confidentiality also are implicit in the Library Bill of Rights’ guarantee of free access to library resources for all users.
Privacy: an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights