Last month I blogged about Google’s plan to ‘liberate’ hardbound books by creating an online global library. Today Microsoft accused the project of systematically violating the copyright of authors.
As part of ongoing rivalries between Microsoft and Google the former launched its own ‘Live Search Books’ service last December, which currently provides access to non-copyrighted texts. Their clients include the British Library, University of California and University of Toronto.
The Authors Guild – a professional association for American writers – opposes Google’s initiative because it digitises books from various libraries without the written consent of individual authors. In contrast, according to Microsoft’s Danielle Tiedt, its service will only digitise copyrighted books when prior consent has been obtained.
But hold on a minute… As an alumnus of the London School of Economics, I’m allowed inside the library to read its books. But I’m not allowed to copy material, and I cannot access Microsoft Office programmes on the computer system. The librarian told me: “The contract with Microsoft is exclusive to students”.
So much for Microsoft’s principles. Of course, we all know that corporations are ruthless when it comes to making profits – whether they are Microsoft or Google. But my question is: what legal right do libraries (which are often publicly funded) have to hand over ‘their’ knowledge to commercial organisations?