Books on the Internet, democratically accessible now but perhaps expensive in the future… The Internet search group Google has been defending its scanning and publishing of millions of books online.
At a hearing at the European Commission in Brussels, Google said this process is making access to information more democratic. The Commission is considering what Europe should do about books on the Web. Out-of-print books alone represent an enormous potential market. A Google deal in the United States is under legal scrutiny over how any eventual profits are shared among Google, publishers and authors. German publishers and booksellers have linked payment for intellectual property with progress: “Copyright is the key to access and it will be the way forward in Europe.” The EU has launched its own online culture scanning register, Europeana, but most European countries have been slow in providing for it. Brussels is interested in help from Google, which said it would be happy to oblige: “There is definitely a ‘win win win’ type of proposition: win for the authors and publishers who are able to showcase their content. Win for us because we are satisfying our users and of course from the user point of view much more access to the world’s information and our universal heritage.” The European Commission says it will study copyright laws to allow Europe to scan and print more books online. Attractive new access possibilities are being considered without ignoring sceptics who warn that the biggest player — Google — might get too much power over the supply of online books.