GBS Blogging: Deep Thought

Would libraries have been more on board with the settlement if it didn’t include the Public Access Service? Sure, giving libraries free terminals seems like a gift, but it’s a gift horse the libraries have been more than willing to look in the mouth. The “one per building” rule has become a lightning rod for criticism; it focuses attention on the possibility of more.

Speaking for myself only, giving libraries a “computer” that doesn’t really act like any other computer isn’t really doing us any favors. Many libraries in my neck of the woods don’t have space for a weird Google-books-only terminal that may only become seriously useful way down the line. At least where I live one per building is a decent number. One per building at NYPL? Or one per building at BPL? Get real.

I don’t think most libraries really saw that part of it as anything other than pandering.

Counter-effective pandering, then?

Jessamyn, the settlement doesn’t give libraries a computer, but instead gives it a license to access the books from one of their own computers. In other words, the library must provide the equipment.

I have often wondered whose idea it was to include this “one license per public library” clause in the agreement. Google is maintaining that its library partners were part of the settlement negotiations, but I find it hard to believe that NYPL, a Google partner, would have suggested this solution. It seems much more likely to have come from people who think it is a plus but have no idea how libraries actually operate. If it actually did originate with a library partner, then that library should be ashamed that it did not consult more broadly first.

I suspect that there is a simpler answer. When the Settlement was first published, there hadn’t yet been much public analysis and critique about the risks of an unmodified settlement for scholarship, privacy, competition, etc. The settlement may have seemed more like a fait accompli. So it seemed to be in the Library Association’s interest to get a carveout that would benefit them specifically. If the Library Association had been working with groups like EFF, Public Knowledge, and others, they might have supported broader objections to the settlement unmodified. Given the broader understanding of the problems with the settlement, perhaps the Library Association would still be willing to express broader objections, if it wouldn’t be inappropriate to add to their statement to the court.