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Google’s plan to digitise thousands of out-of-copyright text books came under fire yesterday from a group of leading US publishers.

The Association of American University Presses wrote to the search behemoth on Friday outlining its concerns. The AAUP represents 125 academic publishers. At issue is Google’s right to reproduce copyright works held by libraries at Harvard, Michigan and Stanford. Google’s Print for Libraries will allow browsers to search the text of books and see a “snippet” of the relevant text.

The letter, signed by Peter Givler, executive director of AAUP, asks Google a series of questions regarding its claim to “fair use” in making library books available online.

Givler wants more information on Google’s claim that once digitised then the copyright of the work rests with Google. He also wants to know how long a “snippet” is and how Google intends to protect copies against misuse.

The letter ends: “Google Print for Libraries has wonderful potential, but that potential can only be realized if the program itself respects the rights of copyright owners and the underlying purpose of copyright law.”

The head of Oxford University library said the project has the potential to be as important as the invention of the printing press.

You can download the letter from AAUP’s website here.®

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