Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, May 25, 2007

Google restrictions on public-domain works hurt users and Google too

Cory Doctorow, Google Print doesn't do exclusive deals with libraries, but still holds the public domain tight to its chest, Boing Boing, May 24, 2007.  Excerpt:

A couple weeks back, I blogged about NPR's segment on digital libraries, where Brewster Kahle criticized Google for striking exclusivity deals with libraries that prohibited Google's competitors from scanning their collections.

Google has replied, saying that it doesn't have any such deal with the libraries, and they've put it in writing. They've even included one of their library contracts. This is really, really good news.

I'm still disappointed that Google puts restrictive notices on their public domain works (these aren't licenses, just "polite notices") that tell what you're not allowed to do with these books. I know they're worried about their competitors getting ahold of those documents, but that's the deal with the public domain: it doesn't belong to you, period, it belongs to all of us. Just because you scan a public domain book, it doesn't confer the right to control it to you.

More importantly: Google is betting that it will make more money by locking these books up to be merely read than it could by making them available as a giant tarball for the Internet to bend, spindle, mutilate and fold. That merely hosting these will generate more pageviews than turning them loose for remix, mashup, scholarship and other forms of inventive re-use.

It just doesn't seem like Google, betting against the Internet's creativity and capacity to innovate. I know they've got a lot of smart people there, but I hope they understand that they don't have all the smart people. Google makes the bulk of its money by indexing the cool stuff other people make. Why restrict people from making more cool stuff? ...