Scholarly publishers take on Google

A Google project to digitize library collections is drawing fire from a group of scholarly publishers.

A group of non-profit scholarly publishers is asking pointed questions about Google's Google Print for Libraries and what the group considers the copyright-violation potential of this project to digitize some university library collections.

In a letter sent to Google on Friday, the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) requests that the company clarify a number of points related to Google Print for Libraries, saying the 125 publishers that belong to the AAUP are concerned about possible misuse of their copyrighted content.

The Google project is causing confusion and "mounting alarm and concern" for AAUP members, which view it as a plan "that appears to involve systematic infringement of copyright on a massive scale," wrote AAUP Executive Director Peter Givler in the letter, which he sent to Alexander Macgillivray, Google's senior intellectual property and product counsel.

Google Print for Libraries, announced in December, is a project to scan all or portions of the library collections of the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Stanford University, The New York Public Library and Oxford University. Google intends to make the digitized texts searchable on Google: users will be able to view the full text of books in the public domain, but only "a few sentences" of copyrighted books, according to information on Google's Web site.

In his letter, Givler asks Macgillivray, among other things, how Google intends to protect from misuse the copyrighted works it digitizes and indexes, and how publishers can protect their copyrighted work should a future Google owner decide to "exploit" these works directly.

Givler also questions the legality of Google's plan to give the libraries copies of the works it digitizes. "Why aren't these copies infringing? How can the libraries claim that these copies have been lawfully acquired?," Givler wrote in the letter, a copy of which the AAUP provided to the IDG News Service.

Givler, who also requests a status update on the digitization program, asks Macgillivray to respond to his questions, by June 20.

Google didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

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