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Preserving literature in an electronic age

August 22, 2005

Your editorial on Google's goal of organizing all the world's information (Aug. 17) points out that the copyright holders of non-Web-based literature are opposing the indexing of this material.

There is a trend in scientific literature, which may spread to general literature, that effectively makes disappear research and knowledge that is not digitally searchable. This is resulting in a lot of new research just redoing what is already known in the dusty stacks of old pre-electronic journals.

Google is offering to prevent this, at no cost to society, only to be blocked by copyright holders who want some money from Google. Google may actually prevent these older print works in journals and books from passing into historical oblivion. If anything, the copyright holders should pay Google to index their works.

Since much of the print literature in question has almost no actual copyright value (if you tried to sell it), an easy solution would be to charge a small annual fee for maintaining a copyright, as is done with Web domain names.

This would create a great social good and prevent nondigital works and human knowledge from disappearing the same way that oral histories disappeared after the invention of writing and then the printing press.

DALLAS E. WEAVER

Huntington Beach

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