Wired covers the latest in the negotiations between Google’s Library of the Future project and the University of Michigan. The worry was that after getting hooked on Google-digitized copies of books, schools would be subject to whatever price structure Google wanted.
According to the updated agreement, schools have a chance to object to any change in the cost of institutional subscription to the Google service. Wired’s Ryan Singel notes that this may be irrelevant:
[I]t’s not clear why UM would protest the pricing of such institutional subscriptions, because the changes also mean Google will subsidize the entire cost of UM’s institutional subscriptions.
The school is taking the risk of copyright infringement lawsuits by making the books available to scan, and again by making the scanned versions available to its students. When Google settles these suits, it has to split profits with authors or publishers. When schools settle, they are shelling out not profits but additional costs, and may be forced to stop making the books available. While Google can always go elsewhere for books to scan, schools may not find another large scanning operation willing to work with them. Given that UMich has more to lose, it makes perfect sense for the agreement terms to favor them.