Google books – philanthropy or piracy?

In the Observer on 30th Augsut, William Skidelsky has added a contribution to the debate about Google’s plans to create the world’s biggest online library.  As he comments “Google has already scanned 10 million books in its bid to digitise the contents of the world’s major libraries, but a copyright battle now threatens the project, with Amazon and Microsoft joining authors and publishers opposed to the scheme”.

As he points out, Google claims that they are doing this for the good of society.  However, he notes that opponents have been critical on the grounds that:

  • “First, they have questioned whether the primary responsibility for digitally archiving the world’s books should be allowed to fall to a commercial company”, and
  • “The second, related criticism is that Google’s scanning of books is actually illegal”

As he concludes, “No one knows the precise use Google will make of the intellectual property it has gained by scanning the world’s library books, and the truth, as Gleick points out, is that the company probably doesn’t even know itself. But what is certain is that, in some way or another, Google’s entrance into digital bookselling will have a significant impact on the book world in years to come”.

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Filed under Ethics, Higher Education, ICT4D

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