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Internet Archive stares down Google book mine

Beware the cookie before dinner

Google Books Settlement Con As part of his ongoing campaign against Google's $125m book-scanning pact, the Internet Archive's Peter Brantley has warned that even if authors opt-out of Google's Book Search service, the web giant will still have the power to mine their book data for use in other services.

"There is value in the comprehensiveness [of Google's digital collection of books]. It's something we need to think about, that scholars and researchers need to think about: whether or not they want to entrust this single comprehensive collection to a single corporate entity," Brantley said Friday during a conference dedicated to the Google Book Settlement at the University of California, Berkeley.

"Authors can remove works [from Google Book Search]. But Google will still be able to utilize those works, in many cases, for integration into other products, like Google Maps and others, that draw upon the variety of knowledge held in those books.

"As a rights holder, I can't pull my book from the corpus for data use only, and even if I pull my book for my display purposes, it's still in [the data corpus]."

In October, Google settled a lawsuit from the US Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers over Book Search, a project that seeks to digitize the works inside the world's libraries. The pact creates a "Book Rights Registry" where authors and publishers can resolve copyright claims in exchange for a predefined cut of Google's revenues.

Brantley and so many others have complained that the settlement also gives Google a unique license to digitize and sell and post ads against "orphan works," books whose rights are controlled by authors and publishers who have yet to be located. But this is but one of Brantley's the concerns over the pact, which still requires court approval.

The settlement wouldn't just give Google a monopoly around the online display of orphan works. It would give the company the ability to freely mine the data inside the 10 million books (and counting) it has scanned - including books whose rights are held by authors and publishers who've opted out of Google Book Search.

Under the settlement, Google would offer others access to at least a portion of its collective book data - dubbed the "research corpus" - from inside two US-based libraries. Yes, only two. And the company could prevent others from using the data in what it views as competing services.

Dan Clancy, the engineering director of Google Book Search, said that Google would only crack down on services that compete with current Google offerings, not future offerings. But Google decides what competes and what doesn't.

Clancy warned, however, that if the settlement is rejected, only Google would have access to the corpus. This is the double edge of Google's Book Settlement. If it's approved, Google has an enormous amount of control over the future of digital books. And if it's rejected, the company still has an enormous amount of control. What's needed is federal legislation that addresses these (and so many other) issues. And that's what Brantley is pushing for.

"We have a responsibility to create a plethora of options. There will be a diversity of possible uses of this material that we can't possibly images," he said. "As scholars, do we think about alternatives. Do we think about other ways of working towards a future where this corpus might be available under better terms. We don't have to grab that cookie that's offered to us before dinner." ®

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