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Posted by on Oct 10, 2009 in Science & Technology | 2 comments

Sergey Brin on Google Books

Sergey Brin has an OpEd in the NYTimes today on Google Books, A Library to Last Forever:

There has been some debate about the settlement, and many groups have offered their opinions, both for and against. I would like to take this opportunity to dispel some myths about the agreement and to share why I am proud of this undertaking. This agreement aims to make millions of out-of-print but in-copyright books available either for a fee or for free with ad support, with the majority of the revenue flowing back to the rights holders, be they authors or publishers.

Some have claimed that this agreement is a form of compulsory license because, as in most class action settlements, it applies to all members of the class who do not opt out by a certain date. The reality is that rights holders can at any time set pricing and access rights for their works or withdraw them from Google Books altogether. For those books whose rights holders have not yet come forward, reasonable default pricing and access policies are assumed. This allows access to the many orphan works whose owners have not yet been found and accumulates revenue for the rights holders, giving them an incentive to step forward.

Not everyone buys his argument. See Chris Thompson in The Big Money, Sergey Brin Blows Smoke Up Your Ass.

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  • kathykattenburg

    I’m not terribly up on this issue, but I read both Brin’s op-ed and Thompson’s response to it, and to be honest I don’t really find the latter’s arguments terribly impressive. He seems to sneer at the notion that having ten million out-of-print books online instead of having to search libraries all over the world for them is anything more than just a trivial convenience. I certainly don’t agree with that. Whatever the merit of the argument about the copyright issue, Brin does make some excellent points on the access-to-information side.

    What do you think, Joe?

  • JWindish

    Early on I was vocally in favor of the Google Books project and how Google went about doing it. On the agreement with publishers, the two people who i look to for guidance on such things, Larry Lessig and Siva Vaidhyanathan, diverge. For now I’m more in line with Lessig, who sees the book agreement as the basis for something very good.

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