The European Union has promised a rapid reaction to the threat posed to Europe's cultural heritage by Google Books, deploying the twin weapons of a "stakeholder dialogue" and an impact assessment. The move follows Brussels' decision to deploy 12 million pages of European documents online, including the classic 1953 Report on the …
Stakeholders decide orphaned works
Oh boy. Why does it need to be so complicated? To digitize a book to make it searchable is fair use. Each search is also fair use.
The only point at which it would be anything other than fair use is if enough of the digital copy was let out as to be detrimental to the value of the book. As it is, search of books is beneficial to everyone.
Legal liability means that any search engine will ensure they don't let out more than a snippet at a time. Except where they have a license.
Orphaned works are still in copyright, you don't have a license so you can't make the book available for anything more than snippets without risking copyright infringement lawsuits. The copyright will eventually expire, the book is not lost to the world, because it has been digitized. At that point it can be made available.
There was nothing wrong with Google's original plan, and any other company could have done the same. Amazon for example. The only problem in Europe is because you didn't codify fair use, so you made it difficult for EU companies to scan books.
To me this is simple, whenever the EU has interfered in IP markets, it has been to create a few big lazy players who do nothing. Look at the database market as an example... you can't even make a list of books similar to another list of books without being sued. So what's needed here is for the EU to stop listening to stakeholders (i.e. vested interests), recognise that fair-use should be codified and let the market get on and do it.
Thank God McCreevey only has a few weeks left....
McCreevy is not someone that should be let within a half mile of any policy making to do with modern technology. Luckily, he won't be reappointed to the new Commission that is due to start it's work in January 2010.