Google Books & its contribution to a wider copyright debate

I have blogged more than once about this issue recently.   The Google Books debate is interesting from the standpoint of considering how legal rules and procedures can/can’t (should/shouldn’t!) adapt to a rapidly changing external environment and to new business models.  In music publishing for example, the legal infrastructure and business models have yet to synchronise with consumer behaviour.  (See CAS-IP blog here, here and here).

IP Kat ran an item this week examining the progress of the Google Books debate in the US.  They say the outlook is bleak for the Google settlement as it stands.   Of course the focus of the legal debate has to be around the principles of copyright and how they need to be applied, which is inherently conservative.  Concurrent to the US decision the EU is discussing how Google Books could affect European publishing which sounds from first glance to be a little more flexible.

There was an EC hearing on the matter in Brussels earlier this month and the statement released from the Commissioners had the language of change and of embracing new opportunities.

From a press release from the meeting the following heading was used:

“It is time for Europe to turn over a new e-leaf on digital books and copyright”. Joint Statement of EU Commissioners Reding and McCreevy on the occasion of this week’s Google Books meetings in Brussels”

and the joint statement went on to say:

“Digitisation of books is a task of Herculean proportions which the public sector needs to guide, but where it also needs private-sector support. It is therefore time to recognise that partnerships between public and private bodies can combine the potential of new technologies and private investments with the rich collections of public institutions built up over the centuries. If we are too slow to go digital, Europe’s culture could suffer in the future…. “.

The statement pointed out that some 90% of European libraries’ collections  are orphan and out-of-print works.  There is much knowledge at stake!  Surely any initiative to help ensure this work isn’t buried in redundant formats must be given more than a fighting chance, even if it means big changes in the way we deal with copyright along the way.

One response to “Google Books & its contribution to a wider copyright debate

  1. The ultimate aim of any Intellectual Property Law is to promote the progress of science, technology and useful arts which in turn leads to the development of society and enrichment of culture. Striking a right balance between the rights of the IP owner (read Copyright owner) and protecting societal interest is always a slippery ground. The “google books” case is a litmus test for the IP jurisprudence to evolve and grow with the changing rules of the game. The author raised an important issue about the knowledge at stake. The million dollar question is, how can mature societies lay back and rest so peacefully when their very foundations (knowledge) are crumbling?

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