Harvard’s Scanning Stance Unswayed by Google Settlement

Harvard’s Scanning Stance Unswayed by Google Settlement

Voicing its dissatisfaction with the terms of a settlement of lawsuits challenging the Google Book Search project, Harvard University Library will not take part in the program’s scanning of copyright-protected works.

One of the original library partners in the project, Harvard plans to continue its policy of only allowing Google to scan books whose copyrights have expired, the Harvard Crimson reported October 30.

In a letter released to library staff, Director Robert C. Darnton cited uncertainties in the settlement that prevented Harvard’s participation. “As we understand it, the settlement contains too many potential limitations on access to and use of the books by members of the higher education community and by patrons of public libraries,” Darnton wrote, adding, “The settlement provides no assurance that the prices charged for access will be reasonable, especially since the subscription services will have no real competitors [and] the scope of access to the digitized books is in various ways both limited and uncertain.”

Despite the university’s decision to not scan copyrighted materials, Harvard officials have declared their belief in the project’s legality. “We have said that we believe that Google’s treatment of in-copyright works is consistent with copyright law,” stated university spokesman John D. Longbrake in 2005 after the lawsuits were filed.

Under the settlement, announced October 28 and subject to approval by a New York federal court, Google will pay $125 million to resolve the lawsuits brought by author and publisher groups. The payment would go toward creation of a Book Rights Registry where authors and publishers can register works and receive compensation from institutional subscriptions and book sales.

Posted on October 31, 2008. Discuss.