Harvard Gives Google Cold Shoulder Over Book Scanning

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Harvard University will not take part in Google's in-copyright book-scanning project—even if Google's recent $125 million settlement offer is approved by a U.S. District Court in New York.

The approved settlement would end a class-action lawsuit filed by the Authors Guild and book authors as well as a separate suit brought by five major publishers. The suits alleged that Google scanning copyrighted library books and publishing snippets in search results without permission of copyright holders was illegal. However, since the suit was filed in 2005, Harvard has maintained that it does not see the scanning project as illegal. The university has a different reason why it will not participate in the project.

According to the Harvard Crimson, University Library Director Robert C. Darnton wrote in a letter to his staff that uncertainties in the settlement were troubling.

"As we understand it, the settlement contains too many potential limitations on access to and use of the books by members of the higher education community and by patrons of public libraries," Darnton wrote.

According to Google, the proposed settlement will authorize Google to provide public and higher education libraries with free access to the books database. However, Darnton noted, "The settlement provides no assurance that the prices charged for access will be reasonable, especially since the subscription services will have no real competitors [and] the scope of access to the digitized books is in various ways both limited and uncertain."

Harvard has been a limited partner in the book-scanning project, allowing Google access to books that are out of copyright, such as works by Henry James, Edith Wharton, Booker T. Washington, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Margaret Fuller.

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