Digital books are potentially the realization of a grand dream--that all the world’s learning might be accessible to anyone on earth at virtually no cost. The Internet and mass magnetic storage devices have in a very short time period made the dream both technologically and economically feasible. Of course, its feasibility as a world-wide social reality remains very much in doubt. Political censorship in repressive societies has become, if anything, more aggressive with the rise of electronic communication, and even democratic societies are fighting the electronic spread of sexual material in ways that threaten open communication of other unpopular ideas. But there is another threat to knowledge ubiquity, unexpected and little-noticed: the potential creation of a de facto corporate monopoly on digital books. That would be the practical effect of the settlement, now pending judicial approval, of a copyright infringement suit against Google precipitated by its program of book scanning. The reading public of the entire world has a very large and long-term stake in the terms of this deal, which has been worked out between private parties and needs only the signature of a single federal judge to take effect.
|Keywords:||Digital Books, Electronic Communication|
Prof. of Computer Science, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
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