Marybeth Peters, head of the US Copyright Office (part of the Library of Congress), said this in her testimony before Congress yesterday:

The Copyright Office has been following the Google Library Project since 2003 with great interest. We first learned about it when Google approached the Library of Congress, seeking to scan all of the Library’s books. At that time, we advised the Library on the copyright issues relevant to mass scanning, and the Library offered Google the more limited ability to scan books that are in the public domain. An agreement did not come to fruition because Google could not accept the terms.

As discussed in my article in June, it seems surprising that the Library of Congress has not taken a more active role in the mass-scanning project that Google is doing. Peters’ words explain why — The copyright mess! If copyright gets fixed, LC might be doing the project instead of Google.

It’s encouraging that Peters has finally been given a platform to talk about the mess. She did talk about it at a Columbia University meeting in March, although it was not widely reported, and was apparently only recorded on a video which was not transcribed (see my transcription of a key passage here). At that conference, she’s reported to have said that Congress had shown no interest in hearing her testimony. Hopefully they’re ready to listen now.

Peters stresses in her testimony yesterday, and in her talk at Columbia, that Congress needs to be the one to fix copyright law. Letting the judiciary branch speak through the Settlement, she says, is making an “end run around the legislative process” — her words in yesterday’s testimony. Brewster Kahle used the same words in April.

With the GBS settlement discussion heating up, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the root of the problem is US Copyright law. As Peters suggests, until copyright is fixed, mass-scanning of books is going to be problematic.

Eric Rumsey is on Twitter @ericrumsey

An earlier article, Color Pictures in Google Books, discussed a few examples of color pictures in full-view books in GBS. Below are more examples in the areas of botany, medical botany, and dermatology.

Google Books titles with color pictures – Botany, Medical Botany

[Examples below link to screenshots in Flickr of Overview : Selected Pages in GBS; links in Flickr go to actual GBS page.]

The Botanical Magazine, Or, Flower-garden Displayed
By William Curtis, vol 9, 1795, Harvard Univ

Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, Or, Flower-garden Displayed
By John Sims, vol 41, 1815, Harvard Univ

The Family Herbal
By John Hill, 1812, Oxford Univ

Flora Medica
By George Spratt, 1830, Oxford Univ

Vegetable Materia Medica of the United States, Or, Medical Botany
By William Paul Crillon Barton, 1818, Oxford Univ

Medicinal Plants (vol 2)
By Robert Bentley, Henry Trimen, David Blair, 1880, Harvard Univ

Medicinal Plants (vol 4)
By Robert Bentley, Henry Trimen, David Blair, 1880, Harvard Univ

Paxton’s Magazine of Botany, and Register of Flowering Plants (vol 1)
By Joseph Paxton, 1836, Oxford Univ

Strasburger’s Text-book of Botany
By Eduard Strasburger, Hans Fitting, Ludwig Jost, William Henry Lang, Heinrich Schenck, George Karsten, 1921, Univ California

Google Books titles with color pictures – Dermatology

Atlas and Epitome of Diseases of the Skin
By Franz Mraček, 1905, Stanford Univ

Atlas Der Hautkrankheiten, Mit Einschluss Der Wichtigsten Venerischen
By Eduard Jacobi, 1906, Stanford Univ

Atlas of Diseases of the Skin
By Franz Mraček, Henry Weightman Stelwagon, 1899, Stanford Univ

Illustrated Skin Diseases
By William Samuel Gottheil, 1902, Harvard Univ

An Introduction to Dermatology
By Norman Purvis Walker, 1906, Stanford Univ

On Diseases of the Skin
By Erasmus Wilson, 1865, Harvard Univ

Portfolio of Dermochromes (vol 2)
By Jerome Kingsbury, Eduard Jacobi, John James Pringle, William Gaynor States, 1913, Harvard Univ

Skin Diseases
By Melford Eugene Douglass, 1900, Univ Michigan

If you know of other areas that have books in Google Books with color pictures, please send comments.

The recently announced addition of thumbnail navigation to Google Book Search is, unfortunately, only available for full-view. But all magazines in GBS are full-view, so thumbnails are especially useful for them, since [because] they have so many pictures. To use thumnails, go to Read this Magazine (or Book), and click the 4-square grid in the top row of icons (shaded below).

There are relatively few public-domain, full-view books with pictures in GBS, but thumbnail view is valuable for them, to get a quick overview of the proportion and nature of the pictures, as shown in the example below.

Last week New York Times reporter David Carr paid a visit to the GooglePlex, to learn more about Google Book Search. His article on this got little attention, maybe because the title and lead paragraphs didn’t communicate that the subject was, in fact, Google Book Search and the Settlement. So I’m excerpting it here:

Years after cracking the very code of the Web to lucrative ends, Google may be in the midst of trying to conjure the most complicated algorithm yet: to wit, can goodness … scale along with the enterprise? Among other adventures, Google’s motives were called into question after it scanned in millions of books without permission, prompting the Authors Guild and publishers to file a class-action suit. The proposed $125 million settlement will lead to a book registry financed by Google and a huge online archive of mostly obscure books, searched and served up by Google. So is that a big win for a culture that increasingly reads on screen — or a land grab of America’s most precious intellectual property?

[Google] was happy to accommodate my visit [last Tuesday] because the founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, along with Mr. Schmidt, have come to believe that part of their job is explaining themselves. … Google is, broadly, the Wal-Mart of the Internet, a huge force that can set terms and price — in this case free — except Google is not selling hammers and CDs, it is operating at the vanguard of intellectual property.

The Justice Department and a number of state attorneys general, have taken an acute interest in the proposed book settlement that Google negotiated over its right to scan millions of books, many of them out of print. Revenue will be split with any known holders of the copyright, but it is the company’s dominion over so-called orphan works that has intellectual property rights advocates livid.

“It’s disgusting,” said Peter Brantley, director of access for the Internet Archive, which has been scanning books as well. “We all share the general goal of getting more books online, but the class-action settlement gives them a release of any claims of infringement in using those works. For them to say that is not a barrier to entry for other people who might scan in those works is a crock.”

The scanned book project is certainly consistent with the company’s mission, which is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” … “What I think is great about books is that people just don’t go to libraries that much, but they are in front of the computer all day,” Mr. Schmidt said. “And now they have access. If you are sitting and trying to finish a term paper at 2 in the morning, Google Books saved your rear end. That is a really oh-my-God kind of change.”

The government has not yet made this argument — filings are due in the case in September — but others have pointed out that Google has something of a monopoly because the company went ahead and scanned seven million books without permission. “To be very precise, we did not require permission to make those copies,” Mr. Schmidt said, suggesting that by scanning and making just a portion of those works available, the company was well within the provisions of fair use.

“People are bringing old narratives to this discussion rather than understanding the unique aspects of the Internet,” he added. “We are one click away from losing you as a customer, so it is very difficult for us to lock you in as a customer in a way that traditional companies have.”

In a later meeting, Mr. Brin waved his hand when it was suggested that the company’s decision to scan books and then reach a settlement had created a barrier to entry for others. (Google also has a separate commercial initiative to work with publishers to sell more current works.) “I didn’t see anyone lining up to scan books when we did it, or even now,” Mr. Brin said. “Some of them are motivated by near-term business disputes, and they don’t see this as an achievement for humanity.”

As with most matters involving Google, it is less about the specific activity than the scope of it. A company with Google’s wherewithal and ambition may have the ability to eventually seem like the only choice in all manner of endeavors.

When I told Mr. Schmidt I was worried about Google’s dominant presence in my digital life, he said: “It’s a legitimate concern. But the question is, how are we doing? Are our products working for you?” Why, yes they are. And if a book is ever written about all this, Google will probably be able to serve that up as well.

Why is the Library of Congress not more involved in discussions of Google Book Search and the impending Settlement? Google searching finds virtually no evidence that LC has had any voice at all in the recent flurry of talk on this. For example, these Google web searches pull up only incidental connections: < “library of congress” “google book” > < billington “google book” > < “library of congress” google settlement > (The main connection found here is a panel discussion of the Settlement that was held at LC in April, but none of the panelists were from LC.)

As the “de facto national library” of the US and “the largest library in the world,” wouldn’t it seem logical that LC be involved in thinking about GBS and the Settlement, which some say will change the way we read more than anything since the printing press?

I’ve been thinking about this idea for several months, but especially after writing an article in May on the apparently woeful state of Information Technology Strategic Planning at LC, as stated in a report by LC’s  Inspector General. Could there be a connection? Is this apparent lack of vision related to LC’s non-engagement with the momentous issues of the Settlement?

I was glad to discover, in doing research for this article, that someone else is thinking at least a bit along the same lines — Peter Eckersly, at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, suggested recently that Google put a copy of all books they scan at the Library of Congress — A fairly modest proposal, but maybe it will at least have the effect of bringing the Library of Congress at long last into the spotlight.

Eric Rumsey is at @ericrumsey