This special feature of the New York Law School Law Review website collects essays, linked together by the participation of their authors in In re Books: A Conference on Law and the Future of Books, held at New York Law School on October 26 and 27, 2012. The articles were edited by Online Executive Editor Jennifer Baek ’13.
I’m here to play the role of Luddite. I’m going to talk about how the digitization of texts can slow and even harm research, which I believe is the traditional mission of libraries.
The dusty world of books is in turmoil. eBooks are shaking up the publishing industry, changing the way we publish books, acquire books, and read them. eBooks were first introduced in the beginning of the 2000s when Google debuted its massive book scanning project.
The process of digitizing a printed book involves much more than the conversion of ink on paper to bits in a file. Functional aspects of the book must be mapped to digital equivalents. Thus we have tables of contents and indices that turn into hyperlinks and spine files, and page numbers that turn into location anchors and progress indicators. One aspect of the printed book that has not received careful study is the copyright page. A cursory review of copyright pages reveals that almost nothing has been done to make them functional in the digital environment. The ink turns into text, but it’s dead text that quickly rots and may produce a stink.
Throughout the twentieth century, commoditization interests predominated in American copyright law and policy, often to the detriment of the public interest.[i] The commercial value of expressive output was typically prioritized over its importance to cultural progress. Consequently, as developments in digital information technology presented new applications for expressive works, these advances were more often assessed as threats to entrenched copyright business models and interests, rather than as revolutionary opportunities to fulfill copyright’s mandate to promote the progress of the arts and sciences.
By Lois F. Wasoff* and Roy S. Kaufman**
The problem we are here to discuss is not really a new one. It has assumed rather critical importance in recent years . . . partly because we are in the “information age,” in which there has been a growth of information posing problems for users and producers of that information; and party because of the inclusion of newer technologies . . . .