Stanford affirms support for Google Book Search

Stanford agreed to make millions of its books available to Google's online library.
Stanford has agreed to make millions of its books available to Google's online library.

The U.S. Justice Department’s concerns about Google Book Search persist, but not everyone shares those concerns: Stanford University last week affirmed its support of the expansive online library in what a campus statement called a “milestone in Stanford’s commitment to the program and to the provision of public access to millions of its books.”

Stanford announced Feb. 2 that the school would be a “fully participating library” in the Google Book Search project, which seeks to make millions of books available as the internet giant battles publishers and other opponents who fear the web repository would have too much control over online book prices.

Stanford’s library is one of more than 20 worldwide that has signed on to Google Book Search.

The university declared itself a participating library after campus decision makers, including members of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Google Book Search Project, agreed with a court settlement reached with publishers in September.

Throughout Google’s 15-month legal fight, the internet giant has scanned more than 1.7 million books owned by Stanford, and plans to create digital copies of millions more, the university said in a statement.

“Stanford is on the cutting edge of technology development and is using technology to improve access to information not just for their faculty and students, but for the world,” said Dan Clancy, Google Books engineering director. “Their early participation was important to the establishment of the Google Books project, and we’re very pleased that they have continued to support this effort and expanded their commitment under the terms of the settlement.”

Walter Hewlett, a member of Stanford’s committee that tracked Google’s settlement, said the university was pleased with a piece of the settlement that expanded access to “orphan works,” or books that don’t have an identifiable rights holder.

“I think this proposed settlement will break the logjam that has locked up orphan works for so many years,” Hewlett said.

On Feb. 4, the Justice Department said Google’s plans would still give the company too much power in determining prices for web-based books. (See “Feds still troubled by Google Books deal.”)

“The United States believes that the court lacks authority to approve” the settlement in its current form, the government’s lawyers wrote. The department’s filing also doesn’t protect the financial interests of orphan works.

A hearing to consider approval of the settlement is scheduled for Feb. 18.

Stanford’s public support for Google’s online library stands in contrast to many colleges and universities disappointed by the company’s concessions in its legal settlement. (See “Revised Google Books deal disappoints many.”)

Among other parts of the settlement, the modified agreement provides more flexibility to offer discounts on electronic books and promises to make it easier for others to resell access to a digital index of books covered in the settlement.

Google’s decision to exclude foreign-language texts comes after months of persistent criticism from many European officials. Copyright holders also would have to give more explicit permission to sell digital book copies if another version is being sold anywhere else in the world.

Google’s court settlement drew harsh criticism from European publishers.

The proposals “do not mark any progress on the essential question of non-English language works pirated by Google,” said a statement by the Publisher’s Association (SNE), which groups most of France’s publishers. “The SNE is maintaining its position by asking Google to respect the essential principle of prior consent by authors and publishers for use of their works.”

Erika Linke, who served as president of the Association of College and Research Libraries, said Google’s agreement to remove non-English works from its scanning project could stifle enthusiasm among college librarians anxiously waiting for the program to launch.

“It changes the value of it in a way,” said Linke, associate dean of libraries at Carnegie Mellon University. “It makes a big difference” for students researching non-English texts, she said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


Stanford University’s Google Book Search

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