Google in murky waters creating digital libraries
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Google in murky waters creating digital libraries

By SiliconIndia   |   Friday, 22 December 2006, 06:00 Hrs
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San Francisco: Google's new initiative to build a digital library has entered into murky waters. Being faced by a legal challenge for alleged copyright infringement, it has led to a philosophical debate with an alternative project promising better online access to the world's books, art and historical documents.

The idea has caused a stir as Google is adamant in aligning the digital content to its Internet-leading search engine and the nine major libraries that are complying themselves with the Mountain View-based company.

The Open Content Alliance, a splinter group prefers a less restrictive access to prevent the accumulated knowledge of humankind from being controlled by a commercial entity, even in the case of a company like Google.

"You are talking about the fruits of our civilization and culture," said Doron Weber, program director of public understanding of science and technology for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

"You want to keep it open and certainly don't want any company to enclose it."

The New York-based foundation will announce a $1 million grant to the Internet Archive, a leader in the Open Content Alliance, to help pay for digital copies of collections owned by the Boston Public Library, the Getty Research Institute and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The works to be scanned include the personal library of John Adams, the nation's second president, and thousands of images from the Metropolitan Museum.

The Sloan grant will be used to scan a collection of anti-slavery material provided by the John Hopkins University Libraries and documents about the Gold Rush from the University of California at Berkeley.

The deal represents a coup for Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, a strident critic of the controls that Google has imposed on its book-scanning initiative.

"They don't want the books to appear in anyone else's search engine but their own, which is a little peculiar for a company that says its mission is to make information universally accessible," Kahle said. A group of authors and publishers have sued Google for copyright infringement in a year-old case that is slowly wending its way through federal court.

Google is running into bills millions of dollars to make the digital copies, while other search engines are being encouraged to index the material too. Also the second largest search engines Yahoo and Microsoft, behind Google belong to the alliance. The group has more than 60 members, consisting mostly of libraries and universities.

"We encourage the digitization of more books by more organizations. It's a good prospect for readers, publishers, authors and libraries," said Megan Lamb, company spokeswoman.

Google's plans are to create newer content for its search engine - giving people a worthy reason to keep visiting the website. The site is positioned as an advertising network generating maximum of its $ 2 billion (1.52 billion euros) profit in the first nine months of this year.

In competition to Google, Microsoft launched a book-scanning project earlier this month. Even Microsoft does not allow its digital copies to be indexed by other search engines. All but one of the libraries that are contributing content to Google so far, are part of universities. Kahle noted that Microsoft's move was not worrisome but Google's book- scanning initiative was, as it had gained popularity gathering much attention and support.



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