06 September 2006

The Big Tent Still Can't Hold the Camel

The GooglePrint program has been back in the news again. The University of California system has signed up to provide more works for scanning. In one sense, this is much more appropriate than the University of Michigan; after all, Google's campus is less than 100 miles from three University of California libraries. Perhaps this is my old logistics bias showing: Why go across country to set up complex hardware when virtually equivalent "targets" are local? On the other hand, the broader scope of the Cal agreement is itself disturbing. I am less disturbed by the patron definition than Alan Adler is, if only because for a state-supported school, the most sensible definition of "patrons" is the general population of that state. The real problem, as I see it, is in § of the contract (PDF), which reads:

As between Google and University and subject to the provisions of this Section 4, Google shall own all rights, title, and interest in and to the Google Digital Copy.

So, then, Google expects its own intellectual property to be respected for a program that—at least on the face of it—presumes that library ownership of a work cuts off the rights of the publisher and author?

But then, if you listen to some commentators who should know better, GooglePrint is going to undermine libraries, too. That comment starts to make more sense, though, when it gets toward the end; its discussion of the economic incentives in publishing is unusually nuanced for a general publication.