Depending on how you look at it, this week’s breaking news regarding the Google Book Search settlement is either good news for libraries or another example of the Internet giant’s bullying tactics. In an agreement signed with the University of Michigan, one of Google’s largest scanning partners, the library will gain more say in how much Google charges for access to its digital catalogue. The New York Times reports:
The new agreement, which Google hopes other libraries will endorse, lets the University of Michigan object if it thinks the prices Google charges libraries for access to its digital collection are too high, a major concern of some librarians. Any pricing dispute would be resolved through arbitration.
The only catch is that in order to have a say, libraries must allow Google to scan copright-protected books from off of their shelves.
The American Library Association, which has asked the court to oversee aspects of the settlement, said the new agreement is a step in the right direction but is insufficient to ensure that Google does not set artificially high prices for its digital collection.
Any library must have the ability to request that the judge review the pricing should a dispute arise, said Corey Williams, associate director at the association’s Washington office.
Elsewhere on the Web, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle is “ not surprisingly “ opposed to the settlement, calling it nothing short of a “book grab” in a Wall Street Journal editorial:
Whereas the original lawsuit could have helped define fair use in the digital age, the settlement provides a new and unsettling form of media consolidation.
If approved, the settlement would produce not one but two court-sanctioned monopolies. Google will have permission to bring under its sole control information that has been accessible through public institutions for centuries. In essence, Google will be privatizing our libraries.