Google Inc. marked an important step in the history of recorded information Thursday by opening up the first virtual library on the Web.
Google said it's making available the first large collection of public books via Google Print. The books range from U.S. Civil War history texts to government documents. The digitized books are not subject to copyright laws because they were never bound by these laws or copyright law has expired. All books published prior to 1923 are considered to be in the public domain.
'It's no surprise that this idea makes some publishers nervous, even though they can easily remove their books from the program at any time.' David Drummond, Google
Google has been working with partner libraries at the
But since that dramatic revelation the Google Print project has come under scrutiny from publishers who have argued it would infringe copyright law. The Association of American Publishers and the Authors' Guild have filed separate lawsuits against Google.
Google has contended that it has a legal right to scan the books under the fair-use clause of the Copyright Act.
For books bound by copyright law, Google only provides "snippets" unless a publisher or copyright holder provides express permission to show more.
On Oct. 19, David Drummond, a Google vice president and general counsel, outlined the company's stance in an e-mail:
"It's no surprise that this idea makes some publishers nervous, even though they can easily remove their books from the program at any time," he wrote. "The history of technology is replete with advances that first met wide opposition, later found wide acceptance, and finally were widely regarded as having been inevitable all along.
"In 1982, for instance, the president of the Motion Picture Association of America famously told a Congressional panel that 'the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to the woman home alone.' But Sony, makers of the original Betamax, stood its ground, the Supreme Court ruled that copying a TV show to watch it later was legal, and today videotapes and DVDs produce the lion's share of the film industry's revenue."