Stanford Initial Statement on Decision on Amended Settlement Agreement of the Google Library Project suit

Stanford Initial Statement on Decision on Amended Settlement Agreement of the Google Library Project suit. 22 March 2011

We are disappointed by the Court’s decision today rejecting the Amended Settlement Agreement in the Google Library Project. The attraction of the project for Stanford lay in our need to preserve for long term use the contents of books (many of which are deteriorating on the shelf) and the desire to index and otherwise analyze the contents of books in order to expose more information, generate more knowledge and foster more expressions. Such knowledge and information in turn not only drive teaching, learning and research, but also drive our economy, our political and social development, and our lives in myriad ways.

We appreciate that the Court struggled with the balance between the technological tools that can permit us to harness information and the laws that can block our ability to do so. Only 5% of books created are currently in print and actively marketed. There are millions of so-called “orphan works” -- books that are still under copyright protection but that have been long abandoned as marketable works. Congress has considered watered down solutions for access to these books for years, but only this project imagined universal widespread access to them. The challenge of libraries is to prevent the destruction and loss of knowledge – to prevent it slipping from our collective memory.

The decision leaves unanswered several important questions, including access to orphan works, periods of protection provided by the Copyright Law, and the yearning for a universal library available to all American citizens. The original premise – that digital copying for preservation, indexing, and analysis is lawful under Section 107( the Fair Use section of Copyright Law) – was not addressed by the Court, because that premise was bypassed by the Amended Settlement Agreement. These questions and the Fair Use limits deserve Congressional attention, in the light of the Constitutional basis of the intellectual property laws of the U.S. Copyright law protects expressions, but leaves ideas free for adoption, re-use, adaptation, and even parody. Discovery of expressed ideas for the purposes of developing new ideas and new expressions remains a fundamental question only partially answered in what is often called the Age of Information.

We are reading and analyzing the decision. We will be consulting with the other Participating Libraries in the project as well as with Google before we determine next steps.

Michael A. Keller, Stanford University Librarian

« Back