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Google Books Rejected: Taking the Orphans to the Digital Public Library of Alexandria

63 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2011 Last revised: 12 Oct 2017

Giancarlo Frosio

Université de Strasbourg - CEIPI; Stanford Law School, CIS

Date Written: April 4, 2011


The idea of the Library of Alexandria has powerfully expanded over the centuries, embodying the dream of universal wisdom and knowledge centralized in one single place. Digitization projects, such as the Google books project, are reviving the hope that this dream may come true. Moreover, the ubiquity of the networked environment promises to open access to this über-library to everybody with an internet connection. Today the entire collection of human knowledge may be only one click away.

Whether the dream of the Library of Alexandria may be achieved by the Google books project is highly debated. Recently, a court decision concluded that perhaps that dream is not within Google’s reach at the moment.

In this paper I will review the Google books project as both an opportunity to discuss the orphan works problem and to examine the copyright strictures impinging on digitization projects. In looking at the Google books litigation, I will investigate the sustainability of Google’s fair use defense before delving into the description of the Google books settlement. I will then discuss the recent opinion from the Court of the Southern District of New York rejecting the settlement in its present form. I will argue that the Google books settlement is an additional move towards propertization and privatization of culture, though admittedly furthering public interest as well. This time, privatization involves memory institutions. In warning against this privatization, I will argue that we need a global effort towards the creation of a World Digital Public Library.

Keywords: Google, Google books, litigation, settlement, rejected, Google books settlement rejected, orphan work, digital library, digitization project, Europeana, opt out

Suggested Citation

Frosio, Giancarlo, Google Books Rejected: Taking the Orphans to the Digital Public Library of Alexandria (April 4, 2011). 28 Santa Clara Computer and High Technology Law Journal 81 (2011) . Available at SSRN:

Giancarlo Frosio (Contact Author)

Université de Strasbourg - CEIPI ( email )

11 Rue de Marechal Juin


Stanford Law School, CIS ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

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