Defending Google's licence to print
Google's plan to create an index of millions of books has got them into legal trouble, but technology analyst Bill Thompson thinks they should press on despite the lawsuits.
Google's plan would make it a starting point for researchers and students
Google wants to scan around 20 million books from four major libraries and create a searchable database of their contents.
This is so that researchers at universities, schoolchildren in libraries and anyone at home can quickly find titles which might be relevant to their work.
Called Google Print, it is a bit like Amazon's feature that lets you search inside a book. Unlike Amazon, where you can then read a few pages from each book you find, Google will only give you enough detail to let you know that you have found what you are looking for.
It is a great idea, and the resulting catalogue will rapidly become the starting place for researchers around the world.
But it might not happen, because the project is currently stalled after three US authors sued Google for scanning their copyright material.
The authors, with support from the US Authors Guild, call the project "a plain and brazen violation of copyright law" and argue that "it's not up to Google or anyone other than the authors, the rightful owners of these copyrights, to decide whether and how their works will be copied."
I am an author, so I have an interest in this, and even though I have many doubts about Google's operations and ideology, I have to support them in this one.
A few years ago Mp3.com launched MyMp3.com. It was a great service which let you listen to your music collection anywhere.
They ripped tens of thousands of CDs onto their servers. Once you had an account with them, you fed your CD collection into your computer and it flagged which ones you owned. Then you could listen to them from any computer you were using.
They should let any library in the world have a copy of the electronic versions of all the books they hold that are in the catalogue. Not a link to the Google website but a real copy, to be held locally and used by the library under a very relaxed and permissive licence
It was grey enough for the record industry to sue them out of existence.
Google is big enough to stand up to the pressure, and it can afford even more expensive lawyers than the Authors Guild.