Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Copyright and the Internet Archive: Is Google Print Really Off Base?

I am working on some private research for a client and found myself delving into materials at Archive.org, the public repository for past images of many of the Web's sites since nearly the Web's inception. The Internet Archive, is active in the Open Content Alliance (OCA), the Yahoo-sponsored alternative to the Google Print program. As you've read in our postings there are suits and complaints against Google's pre-emptive scanning of copyrighted materials, even though they expose only snippets of this content in apparent compliance with "fair use" restrictions. OK, so here's the irony: check out the FAQ on the Internet Archive's copyright policy:

The Internet Archive respects the intellectual property rights and other proprietary rights of others. The Internet Archive may, in appropriate circumstances and at its discretion, remove certain content or disable access to content that appears to infringe the copyright or other intellectual property rights of others. If you believe that your copyright has been violated by material available through the Internet Archive, please provide the Internet Archive Copyright Agent with the following information...

So legal eagles and Internet "luminaries" out there, please help me: doesn't this sound suspiciously like the pre-emptive "copy first, ask questions later" policy that Google has adopted? And isn't it providing for the pre-emptive display of full copyrighted works, not extracts, via the Internet Archive's "Wayback Machine?" Although OCA members have some altruistic goals in trying to build open library sources online, it's no secret that OCA members will be just as active as Google in trying to find ways to make money with this content. If one doubts this at all please reference today's news that Microsoft is looking at joining the OCA. There may be both right and wrong things that Google is doing in its scanning efforts, but before its detractors get too high and mighty they'd be wise to look at their own policies regarding copyrighted materials and see if they are really doing anything other than blowing smoke around their most aggressive and powerful competitor.
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