Monday, April 10, 2006

On Acrimony and Google Library

On Acrimony and Google Library
by SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN, publication date: 9 April 2006
"I take no glee in criticizing anyone. It saddens me that Michigan undertood this effort and sprung it on the library community (and the Michigan community) without public deliberation or debate. That's what happens when state employees and librarians swear themselves to secrecy. They betray democratic values. There should have been a big debate on this BEFORE Michigan signed the contract and invited Google in. Back then we could have ensured Google was bound to respect basic library values. Now it's too late. Now it's all about taking sides between Google and publishers. That's a shame. It is all about the grey areas. And that's what I have been promoting.

I have been blunt in my criticisms of both the five libraries who have entered these deals with Google and of Google itself because I can't seem to get people to take the externalities of the program seriously. I want to enrich and broaden the discussion beyond these shallow mythologies:

• Google is really good at what it does and is working for us.
• A search engine is a neutral, democratic technology.
• Publishers are big, bad copyright bullies who 'don't get' the Internet.
• The Google Library project will (in Lessig's terms) 'offer universal access' to the bulk of human achievement and knowledge.
• Fair use is straightforward, predictable, fair, and useful.
• Expediency matters more than quality.

All these statements are partially true but mostly false. And they are hardly the whole story here. So I think it would be very helpful if those who support Google's project to pressure the company to be a better citizen rather than simply applauding. Let's make sure Google at least tries to live up to its mottos."

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