Thanks to ongoing perpetual copyright extension (thank you
, Michael Eisner and Sonny Bono!) many libraries and museums are distressed to find old books that are still covered by copyright, though long out of print, are literally disintegrating. They want to preserve these books, and digital technology makes that easy. In fact, that's exactly what Google was trying to help these libraries with, via its Google Library
project -- the same one that publishers are suing
over. While these libraries have asked for special exemptions to copyright law to deal with this issue, it seems to have turned into a huge bureaucratic nightmare
, with a special study group made up of both librarians and publishers, who have agreed only to make recommendations when the entire group reaches consensus (meaning, it takes forever to get marginal improvements). Even then, the group is only putting out recommendations to the Librarian of Congress, who would then have to push for legislative change. As Stephen Wildstrom notes in his article about this (linked above):
"Many more books will be gone before anything comes of this.... We have a copyright system designed in the 19th century with a bit of flavoring from the 20th, governing a reality where the existence of digital media is revolutionizing the very concept of content and protection."
It's a shame. Draconian copyright is erasing large portions of our past literary achievements.