Google Book Search Facing Dark Chapter?

Those who oppose Google Book Search have recently formed the Open Book Alliance, a consortium that includes authors, library associations and Google competitors like Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo says its sole mission is to "insist that any mass book digitization and distribution effort be open and competitive."

Members of the Open Book Alliance will be out in full force as a group of academics, librarians and other interested parties gather Friday at the University of California at Berkeley to discuss a settlement Google has proposed that, if granted, will let Google publish millions of books online. UC Berkeley posted a notice on its Web site about the gathering.

The Google Book Search debacle has been three years in the making, since Google first launched its Library Project.

Opposition grew when Google reached a court settlement with several major publishers and industry regulators in 2008 that gives Google the right to scan and offer millions of books on the Internet. The preliminary $125 million settlement gives Google unfettered rights to thousands of out-of-print titles that may or may not be still under copyright protection.

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Since proposing the settlement, Google has been a literary scapegoat of sorts, coming under fire and protest by libraries and privacy activists who object to Google being granted sole digital publishing rights.

So far, Google has compiled 1 million books with expired copyrights in its Google Books project and plans to scan millions more.

Not all are angry over the proposed digital distribution of published books, however. Some authors and copyright holders are thrilled that their works will gain new recognition and possibly a new revenue stream despite being out of print.

For now, copyright holders have until Friday, Sept. 4 to determine whether they want to opt out of the proposed settlement and not allow their books to be shared via Google Book Search.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice is examining the Google Book settlement to see if any "anti-competitive practices" were used when the settlement was created.