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Technology & Innovation

iTunes for Bookworms

If you didn’t know about the magnitude of the Google Library Project, you’re not alone. In 1994, Google began approaching major libraries offering to digitize their stacks with an eye toward selling that digital content online, but only recently did industry heavyweights like Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo! join forces to create an opposition called the Open Book Alliance (a little Orwellian, no?).

But before these Kings of the Internet saddled up, the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers got wind of Google’s plans and filed a lawsuit alleging that the digitization of copyrighted books violates the copyright itself. Since then, a settlement has been reached that will allow the digitization project to continue. That settlement, however, is still subject to approval by a U.S. District Court where the Open Book Alliance and its friends plan to make their case.

One such friend is Scott E. Gant of a prominent Washington law firm. The New York Times reports that Gant’s amicus brief to the District Court represents “the most serious challenge yet to the settlement”. The comment was made by James Grimmelmann, an associate law professor at the New York Law School, who follows the case’s developments on his blog.

Google explains how the settlement, if approved, will affect its digitization project. In the meantime, the juggernaut internet company has just announced its release of over 1 million digital public domain books. The books can be downloaded in PDF format or EPUB, an open format which cannot be monopolized by any particular digital device.

I explained earlier that Amazon’s Kindle doesn’t support the EPUB format, but that Sony’s eReader does. Certainly that’s why Google is giving away some eReaders for the next ten days through a trivia contest. Answers are found using Google Book’s search engine.

Naturally the District Court ruling will apply to American copyright law, but across the ocean Europe is feeling the winds of change. Oxford University’s Bodleian Library is cooperating with Google, as are libraries in Germany, France and Spain. But now that the Europeans are all in it together, the European Commission will officially take a look at Google’s project next month.


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