Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Nationalise Google books?

Robert Darnton in the New York Review of Books suggests that one way out of the Google books situation would be to nationalise Google books. I can't see that idea going down too well in the land of the free.
"The most ambitious solution would transform Google's digital database into a truly public library. That, of course, would require an act of Congress, one that would make a decisive break with the American habit of determining public issues by private lawsuit. The legislation would have to settle ancillary problems—how to adjust copyright, deal with orphan books, and compensate Google for its investment in digitizing—but it would have the advantage of clearing up a messy legal landscape and of giving the American people what they deserve: a national digital library equal to the needs of the twenty-first century. But it is not clear how Google would react to such a buyout.
If state intervention is deemed to go too far against the American grain, a minimal solution could be devised for the private sector. Congress would have to intervene with legislation to protect the digitization of orphan works from lawsuits, but it would not need to appropriate funds. Instead, funding could come from a coalition of foundations. The digitizing, open-access distribution, and preservation of orphan works could be done by a nonprofit organization such as the Internet Archive, a nonprofit group that was built as a digital library of texts, images, and archived Web pages. In order to avoid conflict with interests in the current commercial market, the database would include only books in the public domain and orphan works. Its time span would increase as copyrights expired, and it could include an opt-in provision for rightsholders of books that are in copyright but out of print.
The work need not be done in haste. At the rate of a million books a year, we would have a great library, free and accessible to everyone, within a decade. And the job would be done right, with none of the missing pages, botched images, faulty editions, omitted artwork, censoring, and misconceived cataloging that mar Google's enterprise. Bibliographers—who appear to play little or no part in Google's enterprise—would direct operations along with computer engineers. Librarians would cooperate with both in order to assure the preservation of the books, another weak point in GBS, because Google is not committed to maintaining its corpus, and digitized texts easily degrade or become inaccessible."

Remedy for groundless threats of copyright infringement proceedings

Lord Lucas has been pondering the Digital Economy Bill and suggested an interesting amendment, a remedy for groundless copyright threats no less:
After Clause 8

Insert the following new Clause—
  "Remedy for groundless threats of copyright infringement proceedings
(1)  The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 is amended as follows.
(2)  After section 169 insert—
"169A.Remedy for groundless threats of infringement proceedings
(1)  Where a person threatens another person with proceedings for infringement of copyright, a person aggrieved by the threats may bring an action against him claiming—
(a)  a declaration to the effect that the threats are unjustifiable;
(b)  an injunction against the continuance of the threats;
(c)  damages in respect of any loss which he has sustained by the threats.
(2)  If the claimant proves that the threats were made and that he is a person aggrieved by them, he is entitled to the relief claimed unless the defendant shows that the acts in respect of which proceedings were threatened did constitute, or if done would have constituted, an infringement of the copyright concerned.
(3)  Mere notification that work is protected by copyright does not constitute a threat of proceedings for the purposes of this section.
(4)  A copyright infringement report within the meaning of section 124A(3) of the Communications Act 2003, if notified to a subscriber under section 124A(4) of the Communications Act 2003, does constitute a threat of proceedings for the purposes of this section.""
Expect the entertainment industry lobbyists to be having a quiet word with Peter Mandelson about ensuring that one doesn't see the light of day.