Blown To Bits

Internet Archive Seeks Same Protection as Google

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 by Harry Lewis

More on orphan works — copyrighted works whose copyright holders are unknown, often because they have been out of print for so long. the Google Books settlement would indemnify Google if it distributed a copy of an orphan work and the true rights holder turned up later on and sued.

The Internet Archive describes itself as “a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form,” and goes on to say, “Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public.” The Archive maintains the WayBack Machine, which allows you to retrieve old copies of web pages, but it is also a founding member of the Open Content Alliance, digitizing texts and other materials for public access. It is therefore in something of the same business as Google — except for some crucial differences. The Internet Archive is a nonprofit and it is giving stuff away without trying to make money dong so. And thus far it has scanned only public domain works and those copyrighted materials for which it has gotten permission in advance — Google just scanned first and waited to be sued (that’s what brought about the proposed settlement). The Archive does not want to be disadvantaged by being forced to avoid orphan works, or to be subject to suits against which Google is immunized. So, although it is not seeking to interfere with the Google Books settlement, it is asking the court for the same protections Google is getting.

Both Google and the Authors and Publishers oppose the Archive’s move. Which seems to me in itself to raise a flag about the likelihood that the settlement will create a monopoly in the digital library domain.

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