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November 27, 2006

Google Segregates US From The REst of the World, and Provides Poor Explanation Why

As you might know, "Google blocks access to Google-scanned public-domain books outside the US. Finally we have Google's explanation:

Only books in the public domain -- books no longer under copyright -- have the download feature available. For users in the United States, this typically means books published before 1923. For users outside the U.S., we make determinations based on appropriate local laws. Since whether a book is in the public domain can often be a tricky legal question, we err on the side of caution and display at most a few snippets until we have determined that the book has entered the public domain. These books...may be in the public domain, but until we can be sure, we show them as if they are not.

We're working quickly to digitize and index as many books as possible so we can make Google Book Search truly comprehensive and useful. One way to treat digitized books that may be in the public domain would be to exclude them from the index until we were sure. However, our goal is to make the index as useful as possible, and that means including books as soon as we can rather than waiting for a perfect determination of public domain status. So, some books may initially show up in "Snippet View" and then later, be expanded to "Full View."

Comment. In most countries on Earth the duration of copyrights is the same as in the US. So why isn't it easy for Google to provide access to all of those countries as soon as it decides to provide access to the US?

At least Google admits that these books "may be in the public domain" and that it's temporarily treating them "as if they are not". That is, it hasn't wrongly classified them, but only delayed classifying them. Still, in most cases, it's hard to understand why any delay is necessary."

For links and update see the original posting at Peter Suber's Open Access News Blog (Why Google blocks access to public domain books outside the US, 11 November 2006)

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