Stanford files amicus brief in Google Books case

On behalf of Stanford University, University Librarian Michael A. Keller and Senior University Counsel Lauren K. Schoenthaler have filed an amicus brief (PDF) in support of the proposed Google Books settlement. The brief mostly stays away from the legal issues, and instead focuses on the general benefits of mass digitization of books, and the specific benefits of the Research Corpus provided as part of the settlement.

On the general benefits of mass digitization:

Before turning specifically to the Research Corpus, we offer our viewpoint regarding the role digitization plays in access to information. Within the appropriate bounds of copyright law, as an academic institution we believe that not only our students, but every student and researcher, benefits from easy, uncomplicated and remote access to Stanford’s library collection and all of the great library collections in the Google Library Project. Every aspect of the human and world condition is improved through increased access to information: every child should have access to a robust library; every teacher should have access to online teaching resources; every doctor should have access to the latest research results in her field; and every diplomat should have access to the literary works from other cultures (translated into a language of the diplomat’s choice). The electronic age brings about the potential for such extraordinary and effortless access to information.

On Stanford’s motivation to participate as one of the original library partners:

Stanford’s participation in the Google Book Search project is another way for it to contribute to the betterment of the lives of all Americans. It is another way for Stanford to return to the society that supports it a multiple of the value of its on-going programs. Ratifying the Settlement Agreement will make even the smallest of American libraries expand its offerings to the rich and varied collections of some of the world’s best libraries — an incalculably beneficial opportunity that will be lost without the settlement.

On the proposed Research Corpus:

Section 7.2(d) of the Proposed Settlement agreement provides for the development of a Research Corpus, hosted at two institutions, and containing a digital copy of every book scanned as part of the Google Library Project (save for those books removed or withdrawn from the project by the holder of the copyright).1 This Research Corpus has the potential of becoming a latter-day and repurposed digital Library of Alexandria – the worlds’ books brought together and placed into a collective repository for non-consumptive research.
Different from our current understanding of a library, this corpus of works would not be made available for the purpose of reading the works. Instead, this group of works is intended to be made available to researchers for computational analysis.

Conclusion:

At its core, this Proposed Settlement represents exponentially improved access to information, which will be of great benefit not only to Stanford but to students and researchers worldwide. Of particular importance, but which has generated less attention than other aspects of the Proposed Settlement, is the Research Corpus. The Research Corpus promises to be a resource that will assist scholarship throughout many disciplines and could harness information in ways not previously imagined. Stanford supports the Settlement Agreement and is proud to be part of the project.

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