Every digitized book, no matter how old or new, can become captive to an internet publishing enterprise – with Google a clear front-runner – potentially accumulating millions, perhaps billions, for an online aggregator while doling out pennies to those who one by one wrote this wealth of knowledge, permanently commodifying, commercializing, and monetizing the out-of-print backlist. With this kind of corporate potential at play how will anymore copyright-free ever see the digital light of day?
Lynn Chu, a writer’s rep, describes the 385 page “mind-numbing” Google setlement as “a vast cumpulsory licensing scheme ….setting in amber” Google’s internet “publisher monopoly power” exploiting America’s entire publishing output through a copyright-replacing Book Rights Registry, even managing publishers’ and authors’ capitulation as Google “data-entry slaves.” Strong words from a biased source in a WSJ.com opinion piece March 28.
A few years ago I heard a librarian blandly express disinterest with what Google might do with the digitized copies of that library’s treasure, freely given in exchange for a local digitized instance. Chu points out that “PDF scanning (how Google and everyone else digitizes books) [is] cheap and easy. Books will be digitized without Google” (see my comments from a year ago). Copyright-free? Dead as civic values. Is this the legacy some of America’s best libraries help leave in a drive to digitize on the cheap?