USA Today has reported that a Yahoo-backed alliance plans to provide digitised copyright material online. Yahoo Inc., along with partners including Adobe Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., the Internet Archive, O’Reilly Media Inc., the University of California, and the University of Toronto, plans to do something similar to the Google-backed initiative that I described in an earlier post.

The difference between the projects is significant. Where Google has, controversially, announced that it will provide excerpts of copyrighted works unless the copyright holders “opt out”, the Open Content Alliance is instead pursuing an “opt in” policy: only when the copyright holder explicitly gives permission will a work be made available. The actual difference between the two approaches is not so great, however.

First of all, as I noted before, what the Google-led project is doing may very well be protected by the fair use doctrine (at least in the United States).

Secondly, take a look at the Open Content Alliance partners. Despite the conflict implied by between the two projects, it is interesting to note that Tim O’Reilly is both a partner of OCA, and a supporter of the Google Library (as Ben has noted).