Bye Bye Library?

Last week, Google announced its plans to partner with major libraries in order to give access to millions of books to its users. The plans raises issues of copyright, and yesterday’s editorial at the NY Times spelled them out:

At the outset, this project will be limited to books that are old enough to no longer be under copyright. This is as it should be. It will serve as a demonstration of the immensity – and the immense cultural value – of works in the public domain, and could well kindle a new appreciation of the significance of the public domain.

Beginning with older books will also give Google, the libraries and book publishers time to sort out the problem of creating a comprehensive digital library of books that are currently under copyright. As always in negotiations over intellectual property, the trick will be to balance public utility, corporate profits and the welfare of writers, scholars and editors, and to do so, if possible, without the intervention of Congress.

While I’m all for digitizing information and propagating it by the simplest means possible, I’m also concerned that some people on Capitol Hill might use this as a further excuse to cut funding for libraries.

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