Harvard Library unhappy with Google Books settlement

Pleasantly surprised that a university library would take a public stand on such things, from the Harvard Crimson by way of an article on GBS settlement reactions in Library Journal.

University spokesman John D. Longbrake said that HUL’s [Harvard University Library] participation in the scanning of copyright materials was contingent on the outcome of the settlement between Google and the publishers.

Harvard might still take part in the project, Longbrake said, if the settlement between Google and publishers contains more “reasonable terms” for the University.

In a letter released to library staff, University Library Director Robert C. Darnton ’60 said that uncertainties in the settlement made it impossible for HUL to participate.

“As we understand it, the settlement contains too many potential limitations on access to and use of the books by members of the higher education community and by patrons of public libraries,” Darnton wrote.

Of course, Library Journal notes:

It was unclear at press time what Harvard’s non-participation means in practice, since it is not a party to the actual settlement or the lawsuit. Harvard, however, was one of Google’s original five partners in the library scan plan.

I wonder this too. No longer be a “fully participating library”? Although wait, Harvard probably doesn’t have the right to digital copies in the first place, so they’re not even a ‘fully participating library’ already, and lack the special rights for ‘fully participating library’ in the settlement, right? (Those original libraries haven’t been able to re-negotiate, have they?)  No wonder they’re unhappy.

But, I guess, maybe I was too optimistic when I expressed pleasant surprise that a library would make such a public opinion known, the Crimson notes that this statement was just in a “a letter released to library staff.” (Nice actual journalism from the Crimson.  Apparently someone at the Crimson cared enough to actually consult some sources in the library.)

3 thoughts on “Harvard Library unhappy with Google Books settlement

  1. “Fully Participating Library” is a capitalized phrase defined in the settlement agreement. At its core, the definition applies to an institution that loans its books to Google for scanning (or provides scanned copies of books to Google) and receives the Library Digital Copy (another defined term) from Google. This is contrasted with a “Public Domain Library” — an institution that only loans books in the public domain for scanning and “agree[s] to delete any digital copies of Books received from Google.”

    The settlement also defines “Cooperating Libraries” as those that loan their books to Google, do not get Library Digital Copies, and “must delete any digital copies of Books received from Google.” There is also a definition for “Other Libraries” — these libraries do not agree to be in one of the other classifications above and “no claims are released with respect to any uses of digital copies by Other Libraries.”

  2. Peter: It was my understanding that the initial Google partners did NOT, as part of their agreement, get a Library Digital Copy back from Google, and thus were perhaps not “Fully Participating Libraries,” but instead “Cooperating Libraries”. And that Harvard thus might be relegated to “Cooperating Library” status.

    But maybe I misunderstand what’s going on? It is confusing.

  3. I think that because Harvard was only giving public domain books to start with, they would probably fall under that more restrictive characterization now. But it is probably a matter of renegotiation between Google and the original library partners as how they will be categorized. (I haven’t found anything in the agreement yet that puts specific libraries in particular categories. There is just a list of “Approved Libraries” as Appendix G of the full settlement.

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