Google kicked off a new program yesterday that will allow authors who have released their books under the Creative Commons license to distribute them free through Google Books. Participants will be able to select from among seven versions of the Creative Commons agreement, which lets rightsholders make works openly available while still specifying how they may be used or altered.
“People can download these books in their entirety and pass them along,” Xian Ke, associate product manager at Google Books, wrote on the site. “And if the rightsholder has chosen to allow people to modify their work, readers can even create a mashup—say, translating the book into Esperanto, donning a black beret, and performing the whole thing to music on YouTube.” Users who download books released through Creative Commons agree to abide by the terms of the specific license, such as crediting the original creator in future uses and distributions.
Distribution of Creative Commons material through Google will be overseen by the Book Rights Registry, a nonprofit organization created as part of the Google book settlement. Pending court approval of that agreement—scheduled for October—Google says it also plans to allow users to restrict their book searches to free and shareable content.
Writers whose work is available on Google Books under the Creative Commons program so far include Cory Doctorow, Lawrence Lessig, and Jonathan Zittrain.