Copyright issues in online libraries


Rahul Chaudhry

Plans to digitise the world’s literature and create online libraries will open up new possibilities for consumers and copyright holders, but several legal issues need to be clarified before the system suits everyone, explains Rahul Chaudhry.

Imagine all literary and academic publications and all forms of books, periodicals and articles on every conceivable topic in the world available to everyone at the click of a button. All published books would be preserved for eternity—not in a physical form or in a musty, remote library, but in digital format for the world to access at any time from any place. The objective is commendable and the task, mammoth. Should such a plan be successful though, it would make all knowledge available to everyone regardless of their status.

With this objective, several players in the online market have attempted to create online libraries by using digital optical character recognition technology, which enables them to not just scan books in the form of an image but also to catalogue the books and make their text searchable by terms or keywords.

Admirable as the task is, it is plagued with obstacles, such as language barriers, the complex task of cataloguing millions of books, anti-competitive allegations, privacy concerns and, most importantly, copyright infringement issues.

Copyright issues, online libraries