This week, the last publishing house currently being pursued for attempting to fix prices on e-books settled with the US department of justice. The authors guild attempted to sue Google Books, and ended up settling. The small sum that Google was offering to pay authors was later ruled against by Judge Chin who felt it would give Google the benefits that should go to the copyright holders of works still under copyright. And that’s just in the very recent past. With Google currently stuck on public domain works, and some copyrighted materials, the DPLA could go further, but they will need to be careful.
Although the DPLA is working to look into the lessons learned from nations that have started national DLs, there is considerable groundwork if the DPLA is ever going to get past the initial phase of:
…works in the public domain that have already been digitized and are accessible through other initiatives. Further material will be added incrementally to this basic foundation, starting with orphan works and materials that are in copyright but out-of-print.
Without a new approach to the materials or a new set of materials, the DPLA won’t be new or innovative, it will just be a clearinghouse of DLs. Consider Europeana. Their DL is broken into numerous projects but has one cohesive front. Each project adds a new dimension to the data available online. Searches bring up all relevant media regardless of form or provenance. The projects are funded through government grants, and the European Union is working on legislation to make orphan works available. Across Europe, in national DLs, the libraries are working with publishers to make works available online, even while they’re under copyright.
In order for the DPLA to go further than Google Books, Google Scholar and the Google Art Project, it will need to do two things. First it will need to work with each of the organizations listed here to ensure that the content can be added to the DPLA and be catalogued per DPLA specifications in order to make searching feel seamless. Second, it will need to work with individual publishers to allow access to materials under copyright. I’m sure neither of those are news to the DPLA, and I’m sure that both of these approaches are in the works. Completing those two tasks would allow the DPLA to be a single entry search with more resources than Google can provide, and hopefully, ultimately, a successful venture.