To download or not to download books on Google?
Google has taken the next step in its grand plan to bring the world's books online: Web users can now download the full text of "public domain" works as a PDF to their desktops. "Until now," notes The Guardian, "the search engine giant only allowed people to read the...books online." Now, however, Shakespeare's Macbeth, for example, in the form of a 4.2 megabyte PDF, is just one click away. And it comes with this helpful explanation from Google: "This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project to make the world’s books discoverable online. It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain."

That may be true for out-of-copyright books, but that hasn't calmed the nerves of certain publishers who are still suing the search engine. The issues are subtle, but chief among them is Google's related effort to allow full text searching of all books, including those that are still under copyright. While Google is not actually allowing downloads - or even revealing the full text - of copyrighted books, they are creating and using a searchable index of the material, which some publishers feel is unacceptable. "This is a battle over "a legal doctrine known as 'fair use,'" CNNMoney reported months ago, "which allows the use of copyrighted material for certain purposes, including teaching, research and news reporting."

Very likely this one will spend years in the courts. In the meantime, as one character says to the King in All's Well That Ends Well, "There's honour in the theft."
Posted by Oliver Ryan 12:47 PM 0 Comments comment | Add a Comment

To send a letter to the editor about The Browser, click hereTop of page

Got a news tip? Send it to The Browser