Microsoft adds copyrighted works to book search engine

By , IDG News Service |  Software

Microsoft Corp. will expand its books search engine by including copyrighted works in its index for the first time starting Thursday evening.

Microsoft has obtained permission for all the copyrighted books included in the Live Search Books service, said Danielle Tiedt, general manager of the Live Search selection team.

By taking this approach, Microsoft wants to avoid locking horns over copyright issues with authors and publishers. Its rival, Google Inc., faces two copyright-infringement lawsuits in the U.S. over its decision to scan copyrighted books without always obtaining permission from copyright owners.

Tiedt acknowledges that Google's wholesale scanning of copyrighted works in library collections will give it a larger database of books. But she argues that by working with publishers and obtaining their permission, Microsoft will be able to offer a better experience to users.

At launch tonight, Microsoft's service will feature "tens of thousands" of copyrighted books in its index, from publishers including McGraw-Hill Companies, Simon & Schuster and Yale University Press, Tiedt said. She declined to be more specific about the number of titles Microsoft has been permitted to scan.

Publishers decide what percentage of a copyrighted book Microsoft can show to users. If user decides to buy a book, Microsoft will offer links to external sites selling it, such as online retailers like Amazon.com Inc. or publisher Web stores.

In the results list, Microsoft will also show users how frequently their search terms appear in each book so that they can get a sense of how relevant each work is to their search topic. Microsoft will also show information about the books, such as length, publisher, author, publishing date, table of contents and summaries.

Microsoft launched Live Search Books in December of last year, offering only books in the public domain. In addition to including copyrighted books, Microsoft will also unveil enhancements to the service's user interface tonight.

Google launched its Book Search service in 2004 and initially sought permission from copyright owners before scanning their books. It later modified its approach, scanning copyrighted books without permission as well.

Google argues that it is protected by the fair use principle because it only displays short text snippets from copyrighted books it scanned without permission. Critics say the very act of scanning and storing a digital copy of a book without permission constitutes infringement. Google also scans public-domain works.

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