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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Microsoft joins book search plan
Image of the NYC library
Microsoft is the latest to join global digital library plans
Microsoft has joined a Yahoo-backed effort to digitise the world's books and other works to make them searchable and accessible to anyone online.

The software giant said it would work with the Open Content Alliance (OCA), set up by the Internet Archive, to initially put 150,000 works online.

The move comes as Google faces growing legal pressure from publishers over its own global digital library plans.

Microsoft said it would initially focus on works already in the public domain.

This way, it hopes to avoid similar legal issues over copyright.

Google said in a statement that it welcomed the move to make more information accessible to anyone online.

Legal trouble

Earlier this month, the Association of American Publishers filed a lawsuit in New York claiming Google's Print Library Project plans would infringe their copyrights.

If we go and bring universal access to all human knowledge it will be remembered as one of the great things humankind has ever done
Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive
Google's project would involve digitising millions of works from Harvard, Stanford, and Michigan universities to make them searchable.

Once the texts were digitised, users would not be able to download or print the whole book, but would be able to view a few sentences from each.

Copyright holders have been given a deadline of 1 November if they do not want their books to be scanned.

Search plans

US libraries which have joined the separate OCA's library project include Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Virginia, and the University of Pittsburgh.

The OCA was set up by a group of digital archivists and is backed by technology firms Adobe and HP, as well as libraries and academia.

It aims to find ways of balancing publisher and author rights with global accessibility.

"It's interesting to see everyone jumping on the digital library bandwagon," said Doron Weber from the Sloan Foundation, part-funders of the Internet Archive which set up the OCA.

"Google's push has galvanized everyone else."

Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, said the OCA's digital library plans were ambitious.

"If we go and bring universal access to all human knowledge it will be remembered as one of the great things humankind has ever done," Mr Kahle said.

Microsoft said it was already liaising with publishers and libraries on ways to make more copyrighted works available for online searches.

A spokeswoman said the firm was still investigating different ways to do this, which could include charging to access content.

Microsoft said it would have a prototype of its library search service ready next year.

How the online library project will work

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