The NYT reports on the controversy surrounding the proposed settlement in the lawsuit challenging Google's plan to digitize out-of-print books.
a growing chorus is complaining that a far-reaching settlement of a suit brought against Google by publishers and authors is about to grant the company too much power over orphan works.
These critics say the settlement, which is subject to court approval, will give Google virtually exclusive rights to publish the books online and to profit from them. Some academics and public interest groups plan to file legal briefs objecting to this and other parts of the settlement in coming weeks, before a review by a federal judge in June.
While most orphan books are obscure, in aggregate they are a valuable, broad swath of 20th-century literature and scholarship.
Determining which books are orphans is difficult, but specialists say orphan works could make up the bulk of the collections of some major libraries.
Critics say that without the orphan books, no competitor will ever be able to compile the comprehensive online library Google aims to create, giving the company more control than ever over the realm of digital information. And without competition, they say, Google will be able to charge universities and others high prices for access to its database.
The settlement, “takes the vast bulk of books that are in research libraries and makes them into a single database that is the property of Google,” said Robert Darnton, head of the Harvard University library system. “Google will be a monopoly.”