Thursday, November 17, 2005

Knowledge@Wharton: Online Books and Copyright Law

Here is a gem from the latest Knowledge@Wharton newsletter:
Will the Online Book Publishing Flap Rewrite Copyright Law? The latest frontier in the digital content revolution -- efforts by Google, Amazon and others to turn millions of books into bytes that can be easily searched, accessed and sold by the page -- could redefine copyright law and change the way knowledge is shared around the world, say experts at Wharton. Prompted by Google's controversial move to scan copyrighted works, the issue leaves many unresolved questions: Does the greater good of putting books online outweigh current copyright law? Is Google's complete scanning a violation of copyright law even if the end user doesn't get much more than a small excerpt of the work in a search result? Should Google be required to get publishers' permission before scanning content? Perhaps most importantly, is copyright law designed for printed materials still valid in the digital age? Full Article:
I kind of like the idea of being able to "flip" through a book online. This helps me make a more informed purchase. And, aside from complaints about electronic repurposing of content, this could be a great research tool. Imagine being able to go online and find a specific passage in a book so that you can accurately cite it in a piece of your own writing. Note that I am not talking about copying copious amounts of text from said book. So, in this case, would this be any different than going to the library, finding their copy of the book (if indeed your local branch even has it), and then rummaging through page after page to fine the quote you need? Well, yes, in terms of speed and convenience, it would be very different. But the intent and practice are just about identical. Of course, maybe the libraries should be complaining about this more than the publishers are. Or, just maybe, libraries should be joining forces with Google on this one.

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