Editorial: The Google Wars

Library Journal


It is unfathomable that the Authors Guild, whose members write books for the trade market, speaks for all authors, or that it could fairly represent more than its own members’ concerns. Even some of those members oppose its role. Other writers’ organizations have protested the settlement, too, and a letter to the court from University of California–Berkeley Law School’s Pamela Samuelson raises several issues pertaining to academic authors. Their works, notes Samuelson, comprise a much larger portion of the institutional database, scanned as it is from academic libraries, than do those of Authors Guild members.

Samuelson, a professor of law and information, and some 65 cosigners to her letter write, "Academic authors would...have insisted on much different terms than the Authors Guild did, especially in...pricing of institutional subscriptions [i.e., limiting ‘the risks of price-gouging’], open access, annotations sharing, privacy, and library user rights to print out pages from out-of-print books. [They] would have pushed harder...for more researcher-friendly...provisions and for commitments to quality scans and metadata."

Spoken like a true librarian.

The more experts like Peters and Samuelson delve into the settlement, the more they uncover troubling implications. It is clearly not in the best interest of libraries or the various publics they serve. We call on Judge Chin (and, as Peters does, on Congress) to throw out the settlement—or at the very least modify and supervise its most pernicious sections—to ensure that the future of digital books, many scanned from libraries that purchased them at significant cost, not be put in the exclusive hands of Google.