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Yahoo Leads Literary Charge

A consortium of big businesses, non-profit groups and universities have announced a plan to digitize hundreds of thousands of books and technical papers and make them available on the Web for almost universal access.

Internet giant Yahoo is leading the literary charge -- which takes aim at archrival Google's recent attempts to digitize mountains of material -- and said it plans to help build the online library of copyrighted books as part of the Open Content Alliance (OCA).

In an effort to avoid the legal problems that have plagued the Google Library program, Yahoo says it will use an opt-in policy for publishers on copyrighted works.

That policy is likely a response to the numerous legal battles Google has faced since launching their program last year.

Last month the Authors Guild filed a suit in federal court, charging that Google's plan to digitize the entire collections of five libraries violated the copyrights of those books' authors.

The OCA says it plans to provide digital versions of books, academic papers, video and audio to be made available only with the copyright holders' authorization. At the option of the copyright holder, copyrighted content may then be distributed through a Creative Commons license.

Yahoo will power the search engine on the OCA website and all OCA content will be made available through Yahoo Search, according to the alliance.

"We welcome the launch of the OCA because its approach respects the rights of publishers and other copyright owners," Sally Morris, CEO of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), said in a statement. "Many publishers already make some of their book and journal content freely available online and the OCA's model of allowing rights holders to control which of their works are opened up, when, and where they are hosted may encourage others to do so."

Other participants in the alliance include Adobe, HP, the Internet Archive, O'Reilly Media, the University of California and the University of Toronto.

As soon as content is available through the OCA, any search engine will be able to index it, including Google.

The OCA will be funded by its members and will also accept donations from global institutions including governments, commercial entities and philanthropies, the group said.