Love and Google

| April 7, 2011

I’m falling too hard for Google. With news of the dismissal of the settlement which would give Google rights to sell the thousands of digitized out-of-print and orphan books in their archive, I found myself upset for all the wrong reasons. It kills me that Google has a huge cache of rare books chilling in some digital dungeon, but the heart of my vitriol is a perceived Google slight. I implicitly trust Google to keep holding the torch for accessible knowledge and hardly care that it would give them a huge market advantage. Yes, I’m upset about access, but I’m also upset for Google and that’s a little frightening.

It isn’t really fair that Google should be able to negotiate the sale of these books when similar ventures launched by other websites wouldn’t have the opportunity or resources to do the same. It may not be fair for authors and rights holders who may want more specific control of their works. Google, not evil as it may be, should not be bestowed with a “get out of copyright free” card, at least not yet. Though he rejected the initial settlement, Judge Denny Chen has given Google the opportunity to retool and appeal, and word on the Publishers Weekly street is that they will try again. When I thought and read more about the settlement, it’s clear that we need to take our time and work out a way to access these books in a way that benefits the greater good and deals carefully with digital changes to intellectual property, perhaps the digital public library suggested by Robert Darnton in the NYT. It probably won’t stop me from feeling like Google could have done it better and more beautifully, but maybe it’s time to spread the love.