And it's the only way to create a national digital library
But it was not to be. The very ambitiousness of the settlement was its undoing. In 2011 a federal judge ruled against it, mainly because it went too far beyond the issues in litigation, which concerned only whether scanning books to index their contents and make snippets available was infringement or the limited exception, fair use, since snippets would not supplant—and might enhance—demand for the works. Having failed to reach a more limited settlement, the litigants are expected to go to trial this fall.
The failure of the Google Book settlement, however, has not killed the dream of a comprehensive digital library accessible to the public. Indeed, it has inspired an alternative that would avoid the risks of monopoly control. A coalition of nonprofit libraries, archives, and universities has formed to create a Digital Public Library of America, which is scheduled to launch its services in April 2013. The San Francisco Public Library recently sponsored a second major planning session for the DPLA, which drew 400 participants. Major foundations, as well as private donors, are providing financial support. The DPLA aims to be a portal through which the public can access vast stores of knowledge online. Free, forever.
Initially the DPLA will focus only on making digitized copies of millions of public-domain works available online. These include works published in the United States before 1923, those published between 1923 and 1963 whose copyrights were not renewed, as well as those published before 1989 without proper copyright notices, and virtually all U.S.-government works.
If a way can be found to overcome copyright obstacles, many millions of additional works could be made available.
It's no secret that copyright law needs a significant overhaul to adapt to today's complex information ecosystem. Unfortunately the near-term prospects for comprehensive reform are dim. However, participants at a conference last spring at Berkeley Law School on "Orphan Works and Mass Digitization: Obstacles and Opportunities" believe that modest but still meaningful reforms are possible.
Full story at The Chronicle.