Google has proposed an agreement with representatives of authors and publishers to host a massive digital library. This library will consist of mostly books published in the United States. Google will make digitally available new and old books. This catalog will include books that are no longer in print and “orphan” texts (books where the copyright owner is unknown or contact information is unavailable).5 The texts will be available through search engines, for individual sale as electronic-books, and with database subscriptions. If the Google agreement is approved by the Justice Department, ethical issues would come into question. The issues addressed in this paper include whether the agreement creates a “legally sanctioned cartel for digital book rights”4 and if the public benefits outweigh the monopoly consequences. Google has the network, storage, man power and funding to make this digital library a possibility, yet is this justification enough to give one company so much concentrated power over information access?
Using the utilitarian approach, arguments both for and against the Google library agreement can be supported. First the audience should be established. Authors and publishers could be financially affected by this agreement. They are represented as a whole by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. Both groups are working together to ensure that writers are not
under compensated by Google and that publishing prices do not become too high. The Google company and its competitors are directly affected by the outcome of the agreement. Google will take on a huge expense in hopes to gain a reasonable profit. Competitors with equivalent capabilities, such as Microsoft and Amazon, have not expressed a vested interest in digitizing books as of yet. However, they would not want Google to be the only company legally allowed to do so in the future. An example of a smaller less capable competitor is the Internet Archive which is only concerned with the copy right of “orphan” books. The public is the largest group that will be affected. People will benefit tremendously from this digital catalog but could suffer in terms of privacy, cost and innovation if Google is the sole information access provider.
The public would benefit by having immediate access to numerous texts in almost every subject; libraries would no longer be limited to what can be stored on shelves. Researchers would be able to access information instantly, enabling them to work faster, smarter and more efficiently towards their goal. Arguably the most beneficial part of a digital library would be instant translation. Texts of all genres
could be read by millions of people who could not overcome the language barriers previously. Not only would translations of spoken language be possible but brail libraries could be expanded with a few key clicks.
Although Google is expected to share revenue with both publishers and authors, there is no provision in the...