Magazine article Online

Library Organizations Should Support Google Book Search

Magazine article Online

Library Organizations Should Support Google Book Search

Article excerpt

LATE last year, I criticized Michael German, president of the American Library Association, for comments he made to The Wall Street Journal ("Google Will Return to Scanning Copyrighted Library Books," by Kevin J. Delaney and Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, Nov. 1, 2005, http:// about Google Book Search [www. alas_gorman_str.html]. Gorman's comments characterized Google's digitization initiative as "a potential disaster" because the project "reduce [s] scholarly texts to paragraphs" and "flaunt[s] [his] intellectual property rights" as an author.

My criticism of Gorman had less to do with what he said than his apparent naïveté about how his comments would influence the raging debate about libraries' role in a digital (and digitized) global information landscape. When Gorman the individual affirms his reputation as a Luddite who is out of touch with today's information environment, his musings are irrelevant to the larger debate. On the other hand, when Gorman speaks (and is identified as) as the president of North America's largest professional library organizationthe de facto voice of "the library community"-his words have huge legal, political, and economic consequences for the entire information science profession.

I remain shocked and amazed at Gorman's penchant for speaking without apparent knowledge or context. But at least Gorman said something. In contrast, I find it disappointing that our nations' largest library representative organizations (LROs) have remained eerily silent on digitization copyright issues at a time when they desperately need to be vocal.


The library community's silence is atypical. Traditionally, ALA, AALL, SLA, MLA, and ARL have been active in fighting Big Content's ceaseless efforts to gerrymander public copyright legislation for private, protectionist purposes. For example, the LROs spent considerable resources limiting the spread of the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) at the state level and trying to curb the effect of some of the most controversial provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) on the federal level. Currently, many key LRO advocacy members are involved with the Library of Congress' section 108 study group, which is reexamining the Copyright Act's exceptions and limitations applicable to libraries and archives in light of the changes wrought by digital media. The group's work is critically important in an era in which organizations including the Association of American Publishers, one of the organizations suing Google over the Book Search project, have sought to tarnish libraries as havens of content theft.

The LROs' work goes beyond copyright. Long before Big Business decided to challenge the Bush administration on the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act on the grounds that its provisions caused too much of an administrative burden, LROs (along with civil liberties organizations) were clamoring for heightened scrutiny of the law at a time (late 2001) when it was politically dangerous to do so. Further, many LROs actively encourage advocate-oriented action, as evidenced by ALA's sponsorship of an advocacy institute at its 2006 Midwinter conference. "Now more than ever, library advocacy is crucial to the longevity of our libraries" wrote ALA in its promotional copy for the institute. "As leaders in the profession, we need to build coalitions of advocates who can effectively communicate the critical role that libraries play in our society."

The LROs finally formalized their shared legal capability on copyright issues into the Library Copyright Alliance [www.]. According to the Alliance's Web site, its purpose is to "work toward a unified voice and common strategy for the library community in responding to and developing proposals to amend national and international copyright law and policy for the digital environment. The Alliance's mission is to foster global access and fair use of information for creativity, research, and education. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.