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Yahoo Joins Fray With Online Library Alliance

The project will provide copyrighted material submitted by publishers and authors.

October 03, 2005|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Internet powerhouse Yahoo Inc. is setting out to build a vast online library of copyrighted books that pleases publishers -- something that rival Google Inc. hasn't been able to achieve.

The Open Content Alliance, a project that Yahoo is backing with several other partners, plans to provide digital versions of books, academic papers, video and audio. Much of the items will consist of copyrighted material voluntarily submitted by publishers and authors, said David Mandelbrot, Yahoo's vice president of search content.

Other participants in the alliance, expected to be announced today, include Adobe Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., the Internet Archive, O'Reilly Media Inc., the University of California and the University of Toronto.

Although Yahoo will power the search engine at www.opencontentalliance.org, all the content will be made available for indexing by the other major search engines, including Google's.

By joining the project, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo is hoping to upstage Google, which has a one-year head start on scanning and indexing books to enable more literature and academic research to be accessed from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.

"My feeling is we are doing something new here," Mandelbrot said. "We are building a collaborative effort that will make a great deal of copyrighted material available in a way that's acceptable to the creators."

The alliance won't include any copyrighted material unless it receives the explicit permission of a publisher or author. That restriction means the alliance is bound to be missing much of the material available in bricks-and-mortar libraries.

In an effort to be as comprehensive as possible, Google plans to index millions of copyrighted books from three major university libraries -- Harvard University, Stanford University and the University of Michigan -- unless the copyright holder notifies the company by Nov. 1 about which volumes should be excluded from the search index.

Google's so-called opt-out provision has outraged many publishers, who contend that the company is flouting long-established copyright laws. The Authors Guild Inc., which represents about 8,000 writers, sued Google for copyright infringement last month. Google maintains that its scanning represents "fair use" under the law.

Some of the fiercest critics of Google's library project are endorsing the Open Content Alliance.

Patricia Schroeder, president of the Assn. of American Publishers, described the alliance's approach as "very encouraging."

Sally Morris, chief executive of the Assn. of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, said she hoped Google would follow the alliance's example. "The [Open Content Alliance's] model of allowing rights holders to control which of their works are opened up

Google also applauded the Yahoo-backed alliance.

"We welcome efforts to make information accessible to the world," the company said in a statement.

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