Wednesday, October 29, 2008

One step toward the new Library of Alexandria, for better and worse

Google, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers have settled their lawsuit over the Google Books project.

The pertinent details (via the Chronicle):
Under the terms of the deal, Google will pay $125-million to establish a Book Rights Registry, to compensate authors and publishers whose copyrighted books have already been scanned, and to cover legal costs.

If approved by a judge, the accord would allow users of Google Book Search in the United States to see the full texts of books they can read only in snippets now. The deal would also have the potential to put millions more out-of-print or hard-to-find titles within the reach of readers and researchers. Institutions would be able to buy subscriptions so that their students and faculty members could have full access to complete texts. All public libraries in the United States would be given free portals for their patrons. (The settlement does not apply to the use of Google Book Search outside the United States.)

Users without library or institutional access would pay a fee to preview the full text of a book. Google and the copyright holders—the publishers and authors—would share the proceeds from subscriptions and individual use. Authors and publishers could opt out of the program.

If this project turns out as planned—unprecedented accessibility to out-of-print and orphan titles and compensated accessibility for in-print and under-copyright titles—then it's a huge win-win for everyone, writers, publishers, and readers.

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