Posted this as a comment on another blog.
Followed the link from Sivacracy. I don’t 100% agree with everything Siva writes, but I still think he’d be a good guy to go to lunch with. He really does know a LOT of librarians and talks to them regularly. He isn’t particularly friendly with the publisher perspective, either, though.
Personally, I’m torn on the subject of Google’s digitization project. I’m not a librarian, but I’ve got my MLIS, I work at a library school, and I’m a doctoral student there as well (studying, among other things, copyright and its effects on the missions of cultural institutions). I’m also one of the ALA copyright scholars. I can say with complete certainty that the librarians that are members of the copyright scholar group and ALA’s own copyright committee, representing librarians from around the country, are not completely behind Google’s actions in this case. We’ve been pretty divided, actually. In that setting, I actually usually defend Google in that I believe their use should be fair- but I also think that there are downsides to the Google project as well. I’m glad that Siva at the very least brings some of these issues to our attention. I don’t completely agree with his fair use analysis, although I am familiar with the Tasini, MP3.com, and Arriba cases.
From a copyright perspective, I think it would be great if Google’s use was considered fair use. I agree with part of your statement. Digitiziation is not an either/or proposition. If Google’s use is fair- well, that would just make it all the easier for other groups, including libraries, to take similar actions. Just because Google is doing it does not mean that libraries, or other interested parties, can’t also digitize. Google does have the resources to take action now, and most libraries certainly do not, but I don’t think that immediacy is necessarily a positive thing in this particular situation. It kind of depends on the end result, doesn’t it? Digitization for digitization’s sake isn’t necessarily good.
That being said, I don’t think that what Google is doing is not necessarily good for libraries and information users. In the short term, I think it is. I agree that visibility is a good thing; my gut reaction to the project, when I first heard about Google Print a couple of years ago, was very positive. I think the ability to keyword search for particular books is great. I started having my doubts when I read the contract that Google worked out with the universities. I don’t know that it’s particularly good for users in those systems. I also think that “the choice is ‘Google digitizes everything’ or ‘libraries digitize less than 1%’” is just as much a false dichotomy as Google digitizes everything or libraries digitize everything. There are many ways that libraries or other institutions can participate, and there are better ways for Google or other for-profit institutions and libraries to work together. The contracts could be much better for the university libraries than the existing one with Google, I think. The libraries can’t do some things that would really make this project worthwhile, I believe, due to Google’s control of the digitized forms. I find this ironic, given that libraries that meet copyright law requirements actually do have more leeway to work with copyrighted materials than Google does.
The benefits I see in this project are the general benefits of digitization- additional gains of use such as searching and indexing, and the potential of increased access to material. I agree with Cory Doctorow that it would be in the publisher’s best interest to work with Google. I don’t necessarily know that it’s in the users’ overall best interest. DRM and proprietary formats are problematic. I don’t automatically believe that big corporations are a bad thing, but I do believe that big corporations do not necessarily have the public’s best interests paramount. Nor do all libraries, either, but most public libraries do tend to have missions and mandates that reflect the public interest, while corporations tend not to. (I hope to be studying the missions and laws related to cultural institutions more when I start my dissertation.) When serving the public interest might harm a corporation financially, they may be very well obligated to act against the public interest. Libraries, museums, and archives often have legal mandates to act for the public, and are I think the public’s best advocates in these situations over the long term. On a somewhat related note, I don’t know how Google’s cataloging is- and I do not believe that keyword searches are a replacement for good cataloging, which is increasingly a view that I disturbingly find cropping up.
I read Sivacracy and Madisonian.net pretty regularly. I don’t particularly agree with either one about this particular case all of the time, but I really respect what they have to say. I’ve been quoted on both of them briefly (“not a librarian after all” from Sivacracy, and Madisonian’s misunderstanding of my argument about making a fair use argument rather than a library exemption argument, which was my fault). The Google issue has been very interesting- it’s the first time that people I read and agree with regularly actually disagree with one another in some pretty strong terms.(On a complete side note, if you’re looking for a blog representing what I think is the author’s perspective, Scrivener’s Error is also an excellent one!) I’m glad that they’re engaged in the conversations that they are engaged in, though.
Geez. So overall, I think Google’s use should be fair, but that libraries still have a responsibility to digitize as well, and are probably better stewards of information than Google is.
Wow, this got long, sorry!
Original message on Not Liz.