Google Gift to Help Digitize World

Google , embattled with publishers and authors over its own book-scanning operation, donated $3 million to seed a digitization project by the United States Library of Congress.

The gift, announced on Tuesday, is the first private-sector donation toward the creation of the World Digital Library (WDL), an initiative that will create digital copies of some of the prime works on paper in the Library of Congress and other institutions.

The initiative has no timeline, according to Library of Congress spokesman Guy Lamolinara.

The first step will be to decide how the WDL will identify works to be scanned and identify and manage digital files, as well as figure out what equipment, staffing and funding the project might need.

Once developed, the Library’s WDL plan will be shared with libraries, content owners and their supporters.

The WDL complements another digitization project mandated by Congress, which directed the library to form a network of institutional partners to build a digital preservation architecture for collecting, preserving and making accessible important material available only in digital form.

In the private sector, such a network already is in place: The Open Content Alliance is a consortium, led by the Internet Archive, Yahoo and MSN, that already has developed the technology and data infrastructure to build an index of digital books that will be openly available.

The alliance includes Adobe Systems, the European Archive, HP Labs, the National Archives (U.K.), O’Reilly Media, the Prelinger Archives, the Sloan Foundation, the University of California and the University of Toronto.

While the Open Content Alliance is starting with public domain works owned by the various members, Google got in hot water over its project to scan the entire collections of several university libraries.

Although Google claims its book scanning is covered under the principles of fair use, both the American Association of Publishers and the Authors Guild filed copyright infringement suits in October. Google executives were not available for comment.

The Library of Congress also revealed that it had been working with Google and other vendors in pilot projects to determine how best to scan its own collection. In the last year, Google has digitized around 5,000 public-domain books in the collection.

Lamolinara said that Google would not be an exclusive vendor for that scanning project, and that the resulting database would be open to indexing by other search engines.

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