Google Books Out-Of-Print Deal Blocked

The unique blanket license Google hoped to obtain for the digitization of out of print books has been blocked by a judge’s ruling according to NYTimes.

Unfortunately for content seekers, this means orphaned texts will still have to be negotiated piecemeal, meaning many lifetimes of haggling and non-responsiveness that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  The existing copyright model has a lot of inertia, even against a powerhouse like Google.

In case it isn’t abundantly clear, the only thing holding this up is the legal side.  The technology, infrastructure, people, reasonable deal with publishers and authors’ groups, and consumer demand are all there.  The legal ducks-in-a-row are not.  Perhaps the best thing that could come out of this ruling is to make the out-of-print publishing conditions open to other players.

About Joe Atzberger

Joe Atzberger (atz) is a library hacker in Palo Alto, CA. He worked with Galen at both LibLime and Equinox Software, Inc. as an open source developer on Koha and Evergreen. Joe currently works on Hydra and institutional digital repository infrastructure at Stanford.

2 Responses to Google Books Out-Of-Print Deal Blocked

  1. john says:

    I wonder if the government has ever considered the copy-written legislation of “compulsory licensing” regarding songs as a layover. Maybe if google was willing to pay the library of congress in a sort of escrow system for these orphan books that, if eventually a rights owner materialized and proved it, they could have. Seems to work for music…

  2. Compulsory licensing (as long as everybody could participate, not just Google) does sound like a good solution. It’s been discussed before; this post by John Mark Ockerbloom has a good overview. On the other hand, since the rise of Internet distribution and ebooks have shown publishers a new way to recycle their backlists, they may not be too keen on that.