Question about public domain works in Google Books with a Harvard library example (UNCLASSIFIED)

Mullins, Bill AMRDEC Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL
Tue Nov 1 21:56:22 UTC 2011

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

This is part of an exchange I had with one of the engineers behind
Google Books back in 2009.  Maybe it will be useful to some.

" My biggest problem with GBS is volumes that are completely unavailable
        in full-text, or are only available as snippet views, when they
        be completely available because they are not under copyright (as
        understand it).  These would include books, etc. published
before 1923,
        and materials produced by the U.S. government (Congressional
        reports, etc).

        (No doubt there are many works published after 1922 which are
also in
        the public domain, but I understand that the "orphan works"
issue is
        extraordinarily complicated.)

        These two categories -- pre-1923 works and U.S. Govt works --
        unambiguously in the public domain.  Why aren't they fully
viewable?  Is
        it because you can't trust the metadata by which you would make
        decision to open them up, and can't/won't risk the repercussions
        making fully viewable something that might be under copyright?"

" Regarding pre-1923 works & government documents: we do need to be
extraordinarily conservative since people seem to enjoy suing us with
wild abandon.  Often pre-1923 works are kept in snippet view because
they lack copyright notices, and the 9th Circuit "Twin Books" decision
makes it difficult to conclude that books after 1909 that lack copyright
notices are in the public domain.

Government works are not all in the public domain, alas.  If the sole
author is the US government they are, but not every US government
document has the US government as the sole author.  One example: an IRS
circular for which the IRS licensed a syndicated comic strip.  They
probably licensed the rights solely for the single print run, which
means that the circular contains copyrighted material and we therefore
can't put it into full view.   Congressional hearings in particular
occasionally contain copyrighted material.  Also, there are some
government documents for which the writing was contracted out, and the
copyright status of those is uncertain."

The court case referenced is "Twin Books v Walt Disney" (Disney seems to
show up a lot in vexing copyright cases . . . . GRRRR).  Google it for
reasons it complicates things.

And note that Google Books and the Internet Archive are in the 9th
Circuit's jurisdiction, so their cases are important to the process.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
Behalf Of
> Garson O'Toole
> Sent: Tuesday, November 01, 2011 1:25 PM
> Subject: Question about public domain works in Google Books with a
> library example
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Question about public domain works in Google Books with
> Harvard
>               library example
> -
> This post is about Universities that have partnered with Google. A
> significant question that affects American Dialect researchers that
> use the Google Books (GB) database concerns access to public domain
> works. Some books in the GB database that are in the public domain are
> in "No Preview" mode, i.e., they are unreadable. Why?
> To make this post concrete I will give an example. While tracing a
> quotation I was led to a 1912 periodical in GB that is in "No Preview"
> mode. The database entry says "Original from Harvard University,"
> hence the book is probably from the Harvard library system. I have
> been unable to find the volume at HathiTrust or at the Internet
> Archive. Here is more background.
> Historically, Philadelphia has been the brunt of several jokes. Its
> night-life and overall liveliness have been faulted by comedians. For
> example, the following quip has been attributed to W.C. Fields: "I
> spent a week in Philadelphia one day." I am trying to locate early
> instances of this saying.
> According to GB there is an exact match for "He spent a week in
> Philadelphia one day" in the following volume that is held in the
> Widener library at Harvard:
> Title: The Fra: for Philistines and Roycrofters.
> Published: [East Aurora, N.Y. : E. Hubbard, 1908-1917.]
> Volume: 9
> Date: 1912
> Because of the restricted access mode the page number of the match is
> not given. Also, no snippet is displayed. This lack of information
> results in a metaphorical brick wall. I cannot request scans via
> interlibrary loan (ILL) because the page number is unknown. Also, I
> have no article title. Also, the book is rare enough that it is very
> unlikely that any library will physically loan it via ILL.
> I used a feedback form to notify Google Books that the work is in the
> public domain and should be fully displayed. I have received no
> response. Past experience indicates that there will probably be no
> response from GB.
> I sent an email to a digital collections specialist at Harvard but I
> have not received a response at this time.
> It is not clear whether a policy decision at Google or Harvard is
> blocking access. It is also not clear how to determine why access is
> blocked. That is why I am appealing to list members for help.
> Perhaps a list member knows why access to public-domain works scanned
> via Google-University partnerships is sometimes blocked. Perhaps
> someone has pertinent information about Harvard or Google policies.
> Maybe some individual has "The Fra" Volume 9 in his or her attic.
> Thanks for any help you can provide,
> Garson O'Toole
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

The American Dialect Society -

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