As Frank and others have highlighted at CoOp, Google has been digitizing millions of books, including many covered by copyright, from the collections of major research libraries. Robert Darnton describes Google’s book scanning project as nothing short of an attempt to control access to the “single most comprehensive collection of books since the Library of Alexandria.” Authors and publishers brought a class action suit against Google, alleging breach of copyright. Judge Denny Chin is currently considering the class certification motion and the parties’ settlement proposal. In response to wide-spread criticism of the proposed settlement, Judge Chin recently granted a four-month delay to allow more time for discussion and analysis of the proposal.
Superb guest blogger James Grimmelmann has offered thoughtful commentary on the proposed settlement and now is spearheading an open source initiative to garner public input on the controversial proposed settlement. Later this month, Grimmlemann will introduce “The Public Index,” a website that will feature discussion forums, a comprehensive archive of settlement documents and related commentary, and a tool for users to insert their analysis and commentary on individual paragraphs of the proposed settlement. Although the website responds to a lawsuit, it ultimately can provide Congress and agencies insight into the issue should the court reject the settlement.
The proposed settlement raises issues of great importance, from the contours of the fair use principle and Google’s potential monopoly over the largest digital library (remniscent of Frank’s testimony concerning the failed Google-Yahoo deal) to the absence of due process protections of orphan works (i.e., works for which it is impossible to locate the appropriate rights holders to seek permission to digitize) whose rights would be adjudicated if the class is certified and settled. This description merely touches the surface of the issues at stake. Pamela Samuelson has important commentary on the issue as do many others. Suffice it to say that the Public Index Initiative will no doubt be an important resource for the court (and possibly the legislature) in addressing this perplexing issue.