As authors and publishers wait to learn the final fate of the Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Books settlement, a group of universities has quietly launched a major initiative that could reshape the future of copyright law.
As part of its quest to digitize the world’s books, Google has scanned millions of titles. But it can’t make them available to the public until a judge gives his blessing to a troubled settlement the company has reached with authors and publishers. One of the sticking points has been what to do about books that are still in copyright but whose owners can’t be found. Now, the universities, which include Cornell, Duke and Michigan, have decided that they aren’t going to wait for the judge’s OK to make those e-books available. They have announced they will allow library users to have full access to the digital text of those so-called orphan works, which are estimated to number in the millions.