Is Google locking up historical works?

Google provides funding to universities and researchers around the world who scan and digitize books for them. Many of these books have considerable historical significance, although Google's real goal, according to a CNN piece on the effort, is to createGoogle Inc.

Google provides funding to universities and researchers around the world who scan and digitize books for them. Many of these books have considerable historical significance, although Google's real goal, according to a CNN piece on the effort, is to create

Google Inc.'s Book Search, a portal that will eventually lead users to all the estimated 50 million to 100 million books in the world.

The "book turners" are especially interested in preserving works that might otherwise be lost to age. One, for example, is scanning the oldest bible in Arabic typesetting known to man. While Google has a proprietary process for quickly scanning and indexing newer texts, the historical works must be individually photographed and sent to Google who complete optical character recognition, indexing, and ultimately provide the universities with electronic copies (in addition to posting copies to the Web).

However, some researchers are concerned about both copyright issues and with Google's potential ability to "own" historical works.

Book Search has the support of many publishers, authors and librarians, including Cambridge University Press and Wisdom Publications. But some publishers and authors have sued, claiming the service violates their copyrights. Google says Book Search is aboveboard because Web surfers can retrieve only snippets of copyright material through the service.

Brewster Kahle, founder and digital librarian of the Internet Archive at the Open Content Alliance, said Google may be trying to "lock up the public domain" by making proprietary copies of works whose copyrights have expired -- which includes the vast majority of the world's books.

What do you think? Will Google continue to do no evil? Better yet, how will they monetize this effort?