Category Archives: Commentary

New Video on What Next?


By [Wednesday, May 25th, 2011] at 11:26 pm

New Video on What Next?

On behalf of the Public Index, I’m happy to announce the start of a new video series. We’ll be posting videos that feature analysis, commentary, and interviews on the Google Books case and on the future of e-books. We’ll be posting them here at the Public Index and to our new Vimeo channel.

The first installment, What Next for Google Books?, is an 80-minute discussion between myself and noted digital copyright experts and longtime settlement followers Jonathan Band and Kenneth Crews. We discuss Google’s scanning project, the lawsuit against it by copyright owners, the proposed settlement and the controversy around it, Judge Chin’s opinion rejecting the settlement, possible next steps for the parties, and some of the larger issues raised by the case. It’s a self-contained overview of how the settlement got to where it is now and what might happen next, designed to be informative no matter how little or how much you already know about the case.

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Open Book Alliance One-Year Roundup


By [Thursday, February 17th, 2011] at 5:48 pm

Open Book Alliance One-Year Roundup

Friday the 18th will be the one-year anniversary of the fairness hearing in the Google Books case. To mark the date, the Open Book Alliance has a roundup of what’s happened since then, The Google Book Settlement – One Year and Still Waiting.

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Rothman on the National Digital Library


By [Friday, February 25th, 2011] at 1:20 pm

Rothman on the National Digital Library

David H. Rothman, It’s Time for a National Digital-Library System, Chronicle Review (Feb. 24, 2011);

Not every library item can go online tomorrow with patrons charged no fees for access. Still, we can at least work toward that goal in a reasonable way. A compromise might be for best sellers and other popular offerings not to appear in the national digital-library system for a year or more after publication (at least not unless local and state systems pay extra to shorten or eliminate their patrons’ waiting time for desired e-titles, or unless those systems drastically reduce the actual loan durations on the most-sought items and offer links to stores and publishers to encourage borrowers to buy library-offered books and other content).

As a library user, I hate time windows and other access restrictions. But a realistic approach would preserve opportunities for bookstores and commercial rental services and help protect publishers’ income, a must no matter what the library system’s business model, if the system is to be affordable in the near future and include copyrighted material from major sources. For their part, both librarians and content providers will need to show more flexibility than they have so far. Today libraries own paper books with which they can more or less do as they please, short of, for example, copying them in ways that go beyond fair use. They may need to bend somewhat and accept some restrictions, as long as the public’s right to continual access is preserved.

But publishers will have to yield, too, by making more e-titles available to public libraries. Furthermore, publishers should be less zealous in their use of digital-rights management, technologies that limit access to digital content. Ideally, they will also spend less time lobbying for Draconian copyright laws, and more time working with libraries to create and promote cost-effective strategies to help libraries and themselves survive, with more revenue for all and less temptation for cash-strapped students and others to pirate books. A well-stocked national digital-library system could make content more easily available both legally and—for publishers—profitably.

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