Yahoo's Book Scanning Effort Not Quite What It Seems
from the well,-not-quite dept
Google has been getting a ton of attention lately for its effort to scan as many books as they can and make them searchable online. Most of the attention has been on the disputes with various publishers and authors over whether or not this is legal. So, along comes Yahoo to announce that they, too, are getting into the book scanning business and you might expect similar fights. Except... Yahoo's book scanning project isn't at all what it seems. First, Yahoo's involvement seems fairly small compared to others involved. The content will be hosted by the Internet Archive and will be accessible to all search engines, should they choose to search it. However, much more important is that to avoid the various legal questions, they're only scanning books in the public domain, which (thanks to continued copyright extension) is a pretty small percentage of what's out there (and what's interesting to read). Other publishers/authors can "opt-in," but very few are likely to do so. I'm reminded of an old episode of the (now sadly, long gone) TV show Sports Night, where one of the characters has to pay a fine for singing Happy Birthday on the air. He then insists he will only sing songs in the public domain in the future, and begins making up a list which is both tiny and unique for mostly being terrible. "Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle of Rum" indeed. While it's a nice project, it comes off more like Yahoo's reactive response to Google's project... but where they don't have the guts to stand up to authors and publishers to explain why getting the books online is a good thing.