wheel - 7:48 pm on Feb 11, 2010 (gmt 0)
If "opt-in" is required, this very large number of books will never become available digitally.
So? Your wants to get access and distribute other peoples work doesn't justify demands to take that work arbitarily just because it's difficult to find out if the copyright has expired. Though that seems to be the argument everyone has - I want it, it's not convenient to determine if I can have it, so I get it anyway.
Sorry, if you're unable to determine the copyright, then it's not yours to access or distribute.
Yes that means stuff won't be available for a long time. Tough. That's why we have copright - the assumption is that the author/owner gets to say what happens to their work, not you. That's it by default - the answers no. You want the default answer to be yes. So does Google. I disagree.
And yes, I am well aware of the difficulty of determining copyright date of material. If you want access to it, find a library or buy it. You don't get to copy it and hand it out, no matter how convenient it is for you.