Harvard won’t let Google scan copyrighted books

By Carol Eisenberg

November 4, 2008 at 4:52pm

Harvard University is dropping out of Google’s massive book-scanning project involving copyrighted books, citing concerns about reader access.

The university was among Google’s early partners for the project, but expressed reservations about the $125-million settlement reached last week between Google and authors and publishers, setting up a framework for splitting the profits from digitally copied books between the Internet titan and the original writers and publishers.

Harvard was not a party to the suits brought by the Authors Guild and five different publishers, which led to that settlement.

“As we understand it, the settlement contains too many potential limitations on access to, and use of the books by members of the higher-education community and by patrons of public libraries,” wrote University Library Director Robert C. Darnton in a letter to staff.

Darnton also said he was skeptical of the subscription pricing model laid out in the settlement.

Harvard had been one of five academic libraries - along with Stanford, Oxford, Michigan, and the New York Public Library - who had agreed to partner with Google when the book scanning initiative was announced in October 2004.

Harvard’s decision to bar copyrighted material from the project could have broader repercussions since Harvard maintains the largest academic library in the world, and its director, Darnton, also serves as a trustee of the New York Public Library.

However, it does not affect an earlier agreement allowing Google to scan books with expired copyrights. Of the approximately seven million books Google has scanned since 2004, four to five million are out of print and not covered by copyright laws. Among those copied from Harvard’s collection are books by Henry James, Edith Wharton, Booker T. Washington, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Margaret Fuller.

Under the settlement, which still must be approved by a judge, Google would publish up to 20-percent of a book’s text online at no charge to readers. The entire book would be available for a fee. Universities, libraries and other organizations would be able to buy subscriptions to make entire collections available to their users online.

Google plans to take 37 percent of the revenue, leaving 63 percent for publishers and authors. If Google sells ads on pages where previews of scanned books appear, it will split the revenue on the same basis.

Harvard officials said the university would reconsider its participation if the deal were restructured with more “reasonable terms.”

Follow Muckety on Twitter Tweet This! Share on Facebook

Click here to sign up for the Muckety Newsletter

 Read related stories: Business · Recent Stories  


  • There are no comments yet, be the first by filling in the form below.

Leave a Comment

The relationship map to the left is interactive.
• Solid lines are current relations. Dotted lines are former relations.
• Expand items with + signs by double-clicking or by selecting multiple items in the map and pressing the "e" key.
• Move an item in the map by clicking and dragging.
• You can also delete items, separate boxes and save maps. Right-click on the map or select Map Tools for these options.
• Find out more about an item in the map by right-clicking on the item and choosing Information about...
• View map color key.
• This interactive map requires Flash player.

Become a fan of Muckety on Facebook

  • Search for stories
    Special Features

Follow Muckety on Twitter Follow Muckety on Twitter
Muckety has no direct connection to most of the people or organizations listed on these pages.
We are unable to forward personal messages or provide personal contact information.
We make every effort at Muckety to ensure that our data is correct and timely. However, relationships are in constant flux and we cannot guarantee accuracy. If you come across incorrect or outdated information, please let us know by email.
© 2017 Muckety LLC