Altogether, Judge Chin argued that the agreement would grant Google a virtual legal monopoly over the online book search. That is too high a price to pay. Google’s loss means that, for now, its search results will show only snippets of text from books that are under copyright but out of print. But Judge Chin suggested Google’s deal still might work if authors had to opt in rather than opt out. Google’s lawyers have rejected this option, arguing that it is too slow and that many books would probably be left out. But Google and its partners should give it a try.
Congress, meanwhile, can resolve the problem of orphan books. In 2008, it almost passed a bill that would allow anybody to digitize orphan works without fear of being sued for copyright infringement as long as they proved that they had tried to find the rights’ holder. This would give all comers similar legal protection to that which Google got in its agreement.
Congress should approve this legislation. While it’s at it, it should consider promoting a nonprofit digital library, perhaps seeded with public dollars. The idea of a universal library available to all is too good to let go.
Note: Since the Decision Was Announced InfoDocket Has Been Compiling a “Webliography” of Selected Stories About the Decision. You can access the compilation here.