Mass Digitization and the Public Interest

In Google ‘Showtimes’ The UC Library System, Jeff Ubois cogently covers many of the concerns that have been bothering me about the Google Book Search libraries initiative, especially the lack of transparency in the secret deals made between those funding scanning projects and libraries, deals that could – perversely – lead to restricted access by the public to digitized print works. The article also is an excellent summary of the state of mass digitization. My only quibble is that as far as I can tell Google is far from alone in this behavior – Microsoft MSN’s deals with British Library and others are also secretive and are rumored to contain similar exclusivity clauses. Ubois focuses on Google, seemingly giving others a free pass thanks to their participation in the Open Content Alliance – yet in some cases the OCA may be little more than a smokescreen for equivalent “digital works land grab” attempts.
The key question raised in Ubois’ article: “Can anyone else build services that access this data? Or is it another case of ‘Google can crawl everyone else’s data, no one can crawl Google’s data?'”..

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