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The Library of Congress > Digital Preservation > News Archive > Vaidhyanathan Talks About Google Books Project

March 28, 2011 -- University of Virginia Professor of Media Studies and Law Siva Vaidhyanathan jumped right into the controversial legal issues surrounding the Google Books project (external link)during a speaking engagement at the Library of Congress on March 25, 2011. 

Siva Vaidhyanathan speaking at the Library of Congress. Photo credit: Leslie Johnston

Siva Vaidhyanathan speaking at the Library of Congress. Photo credit: Leslie Johnston

"It was audacious of Google when they launched their book scanning project in 2004," he said.  "They were only six years old and yet they were looking to have custody of a huge volume of knowledge.  But companies can change or go out of business very quickly.  Remember, in 2004 Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston had been together longer than Google had been in existence."

Vaidhyanathan based his remarks on his recent book, "The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry)," which was already in print when a Federal judge rejected a proposed settlement (external link)between Google and authors and publishers in connection with the Google Books project. 

"This is the perfect opportunity to look for a better way to deal with the copyright and other public policy issues raised by the Google project," he said.  "The values of librarianship should have been put first: we need better image scans of book pages, better metadata and better privacy protection for users."

He made a very strong case overall for the role of public institutions in preserving and providing access to information.  Many are now behind in doing this work, due in part to current political issues and also in part because they suffer from "a poverty of ambition and gumption." 

Vaidhyanathan said that he saw this as a temporary situation and was optimistic that libraries and other publically-oriented entities would eventually rise to the meet the challenge.