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Yahoo Gets Book-Scanning Right...Almost

The Yahoo-led project to scan books and library material and make them available online is on target, unlike the wrong-headed Google initiative that will lead to massive copyright violations. Despite a few minor problems with the Yahoo program, Google should learn from its competitor and follow the same rules.
The Yahoo initiative, called the Open Content Alliance, will only scan works in the public domain, or whose copyright holders agree to have their work scanned. The Google plan, by way of contrast, will scan entire libraries full of copyrighted works, without the copyright holders' permissions.

Yahoo is working with an impressive crowd, including the University of California, the Prelinger Archives, the University of Toronto, Adobe and the Internet Archive.

The Yahoo plan will make entire books and other information available online. It will be a true Internet library, with masssive amounts of valuable information available to the public, researchers, and scholars.

There are only a few drawbacks to the plan. First is that the material will be made available in Adobe Acrobat format, rather than as text. Acrobat is a notoriously finicky format, and the Acrobat reader has probably crashed more computers than anything this side of Windows. It's big, it's ugly, and it's a resource hog. People should have the option of viewing in plain text.

Second is that all the work in the archive, regardless of copyright, will be made fully available as Acrobat files, so it can be easily printed out. This is great for public domain works, but not so great for copyrighted works. Copyright holders justifiably won't want their entire works made available this way, and few will probably want to participate. Yahoo should have a two-tiered program --- snippets for copyrighted works; full online access for the rest.

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