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Happy Open Access Week! Each October, institutions around the globe celebrate and advocate for open access to knowledge, be it articles or books or data or learning materials. To celebrate OA this week, I will be blogging about OA and OA-related news. So, to kick things off, I’m going to start by pointing you to news about last Friday’s win for Google Books and fair use. In a ruling issued on October 16, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously upheld the 2013 lower court’s ruling that found the Google Books project scanning to be fair use.

Now, you may be wondering how fair use and the Google Books case, which is about potential lost revenue in licensing opportunities for authors whose books were digitized in the Google Books project (and whose books were not published OA, with most published long before the OA movement arose), an appropriate news item for Open Access Week. Let me tell you…

Part of the aim of open access is to help scholars better understand and manage their copyrights. Many authors blithely sign away their copyrights when publishing, not realizing they are doing so. When authors elect to publish their works OA, they retain copyright, and only license limited rights to the publishers. This leaves them free to do what they wish with their own works. Sounds good, right?

Part of the aim of the Google Books project is to aid discovery of older print books that are sitting, mostly unused, on library shelves. In many cases, these are orphan works: books whose copyright owners cannot be identified, and for which copyright status is unknown. Other books are known to be in the public domain–meaning they’re free of copyright–and are therefore made available in full. For those books with known, in-copyright status, only snippets of text are made available in Google Books, and only the digitized full texts may be used by the owning library. Sounds reasonable, right?

In both instances, greater discovery of scholarship is the ultimate aim. And that’s a VERY GOOD THING.

More about the Google Books ruling: