From the Washington Post, spotted on Slashdot: The Open Content Alliance is funding the Internet Archive with a $1 million grant to allow them to digitize more books for their Open Library project. The OCA feels that there should be other major repositories of scanned knowledge than just one commercial search engine (though it is worth noting that two other commercial search engines are prominent OCA members). Meanwhile, Google has been subpoenaing Yahoo, one of the members of the OCA, as part of the discovery process in defending against the lawsuit that the Authors’ Guild is bringing against it.

Both articles note that the Open Content Alliance will virtuously restrict itself to works in the public domain, or for which they have explicit permission, and will make the contents available to all search engines whereas Google will be keeping its contents for itself and its member libraries. Still, the point of Google Books is to provide inside-the-cover search capability for all books, which includes orphaned works for which it is not possible to find the rights-holder in order to obtain permission—not simply those in the public domain. It has been estimated that only 4% of all books ever published are being commercially exploited—meaning that any book search that relies on asking permission for nonpublic-domain works will only ever be able to index a tiny fraction of available titles. And given that Google is footing the bill for their own effort, it only seems fair they reap the benefit. It is all very well for the OCA to provide its results to all search engines; however, given that the Open Content Alliance includes both Yahoo and Microsoft, who are the two largest search rivals to Google, they can afford to be benevolent since Google is the only competition that can worry them.

Interestingly, there seems to be some disagreement between allies Yahoo and the Authors’ Guild as to just how much control Yahoo has over the Open Library project. Yahoo claims that they are only providing funding but not control, whereas the Authors’ Guild refers to it as “Yahoo’s new venture.” Hmm…


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail