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12/20/2006
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Internet Archive Claims Progress Against Google Library Initiative

The Internet Archive, which objects to Google's plans to scan public-domain books in a proprietary format, scored a $1 million grant to fund scanning books in several of the U.S.'s best-known libraries.

The Internet Archive, which is offering a non-proprietary alternative to Google's efforts to digitize library books, said Wednesday it has received $1 million in funding to scan books in several of the nation's best-known libraries.

The money from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is earmarked for scanning select collections at the Boston Public Library, The Getty Research Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Bancroft Library of the University of California at Berkeley, and the Johns Hopkins University Libraries. The scanning project is under the Internet Archive's Open Content Alliance.

The Internet Archive is against Google's library initiative because it believes books scanned from the public domain should be available in an open format accessible to everyone. Google's digitized books are stored in its own proprietary index.

The latest announcement, along with the fact that the Internet Archive has already scanned more than 100,000 books, shows that the nonprofit group has some momentum, Brewster Kahle, chairman of the San Francisco-based organization, said.

"Google has made a full-court press toward privatizing every library they can get a hold of," Kahle said. "But this is a step toward showing there's an alternative path."

Google's library initiative has led to lawsuits from authors and publishers who object to the search engine giant scanning books without the permission of copyright holders. Google claims it is legal, given that it only shows snippets of copyrighted material in search results. The suits are pending.

The Internet Archive, which is also backed by Google rival Yahoo, only scans books that are in the public domain, or with the permission of rights holders.

The Internet Archive is working as fast as it can to sign up libraries before Google, saying that once the vendor starts working with a library, the institution is usually unwilling to take on the added expense of working with another book-scanning group. "It's effectively exclusive," Kahle said.

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