Testimony of Dean Paul Courant at February 18, 2010 Fairness Hearing on Proposed Settlement

Thank you, your Honor, for the opportunity to speak today. It gives me great pleasure to be here. My name is Paul Courant. I'm the university librarian and dean of libraries at the University of Michigan, where I am also professor of economics and professor of public policy.

Like many academics, I'm a member of the author class, and like most members of the author class, the bulk of what I've written is now out of print, hard to find, and never sold all that well in the first place.

In my opinion, these facts about the market for old academic books are quite relevant to the antitrust issues that have been raised here, but I'm here today not as an economist but as a librarian.

I also want to note that I've discussed my remarks today with the librarians in the rest of the Big Ten, the University of Chicago and Stanford University, and those librarians are in substantial agreement with what I have to say and asked me to convey that to you.

The Google scans are vital to the preservation of works held in our academic libraries. The University of Michigan alone has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the years collecting and caring for the nearly 8 million volumes in its collections. That investment has -- is multiplied several fold, dozens fold, by research universities nationwide. Many of our books are falling apart due to a combination of age, use, and pulp paper that contains acids that destroy the paper over time. When you pick up an old book and it turns into corn flakes, it was printed on pulp paper. Before Google's library project, there had been many digitization efforts undertaken by research libraries, but their collected output came to tens of thousands of books a year. Google is digitizing tens of thousands of books a week. Without reliable access to the scholarly record, we cannot know what has been known, what has proved fruitful and fruitless in the past. The broad social benefit that derives from the progress of science and the useful arts depend on the ability to find, use, and reuse the scholarly record. Provision of the scholarly record for current and future generations is the primary mission of these research libraries. Copies of the Google scans are returned to participating libraries who keep them individually and in several consortia, notably the HathiTrust, which is a collaboration of about two dozen research libraries. The scans thus provide part of the solution to a grand challenge, that of preservation by research libraries of millions of fragile works that constitute essential parts of the record of scholarship and of human thought and accomplishment. Google has scanned over 12 million volumes, but there are many, many millions more to be done.

Preservation is vital, but it does not provide a legal or institutional framework to support the efficient use of digitized works. Without the settlement agreement, there is no lawful mechanism for Google's or any other's scans of copyrighted works to be used except as sources of indexes and snippets and as backups against the day when print copies become deteriorated or otherwise unusable.

The settlement agreement, in contrast, would make the record of scholarship assembled by the nation's great research libraries broadly available to the public and to scholarly communities themselves. The millions of printed works collected by the University of Michigan Library are currently only available to be read in Ann Arbor. Anyone can search the digitized text, but we cannot legally allow the works to be read. That is, you can find bibliographic records, including page numbers, for all the instances of a string of text that occur in the digital collection, but to read the works, you must come to a library that owns them or acquire access to a physical copy in some other way. This is an important point because it is often confused in public debate about this settlement.

The alternative to the settlement is not a utopia of universal digital access. Rather, it is the status quo under which most of the works of the 20th Century simply cannot be legally read in digital form and physical and institutional proximity to great collections is the only effective means of access. I note that this status quo actually provides a competitive advantage to institutions such as Michigan that have the richest library collections, but it is in the nature of our commitment to scholarship and its benefits to the public that we are happy to forgo that advantage.

Under the settlement agreement, much of Michigan's collection will become available to readers in academic institutions around the country. Public libraries, residents unaffiliated with any library or academic institution, and academic institutions that could not hope to acquire collections of the kind held by great universities will have a large swath of scholarship at their fingertips, extensively searchable at low cost and purchasable over the internet. And here, the comments made by the gentleman from Howard and also the American Federation for the Blind echo the main point of what I want to make on this -- on broad public access.

Finally. So, it comes down to this, in my view. We have in our library collections the keys to understanding and reshaping the world. For reasons of history, technology, and law, we are unable to use those resources to provide the maximum possible benefit, using the most powerful technologies to the world beyond the university's walls. The settlement greatly increases the ability of our university and others to share broadly the extraordinary resource embodied in the record of scholarship that we hold and in turn the benefit from the resources that have been collected and developed by others. It's a great bargain in the best sense of the word.

Thank you very much, your Honor.

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