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Old 09-21-2005, 09:34 PM   #1
Brian
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Authors Guild alleges Google's Library Project violates copyrights

The Authors Guild, a professional organization for published writers, has filed a class action suit against Google claiming the Google Print Library Project to scan and index the content of books violates copyright laws. From the press release:

The Authors Guild and a Lincoln biographer, a children's book author, and a former Poet Laureate of the United States filed a class action suit today in federal court in Manhattan against Google over its unauthorized scanning and copying of books through its Google Library program. The suit alleges that the $90 billion search engine and advertising juggernaut is engaging in massive copyright infringement at the expense of the rights of individual writers.

In response, Google has gone on the offensive in a post on the Google Blog, which includes in part:

Let's be clear: Google doesn’t show even a single page to users who find copyrighted books through this program (unless the copyright holder gives us permission to show more). At most we show only a brief snippet of text where their search term appears, along with basic bibliographic information and several links to online booksellers and libraries.

Google Print offers readers the ability to find books on subjects and keywords that would otherwise go unnoticed, thereby creating newfound demand for titles gathering dust in the truest sense of the long tail. It's a shame that the Authors Guild is clinging to innovation averse, old modes of thinking to the detriment of their members, the industry, and the readers of the world.

David Rothman at Teleread has more on the subject.
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Old 09-21-2005, 09:58 PM   #2
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Ever since Google became a public company, it's all about money. Sure it looks like an altruistic deed to scan every book on this planet and to make the scans (or snippets of them) available to everyone who's interested, but at the end what Google is striving for is to make their shareholders happy. The easiest solution for Google would be to have a silent agreement with the Authors Guild (and everyone else who sees a right to participate in the money milking) to have them financially participate from the success of this project.

PS: Don't get me wrong I am a huge fan of Google Print! I just wanted to point out the problem which may arise when dealing with a publicly traded company.
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Old 09-21-2005, 10:26 PM   #3
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Alex,

I agree that Google could somehow gain financially, but as long as they respect the wishes of the copyright holders and they aren't violating copyright law, they should be able to generate revenue somehow by offering the Google Print service.

I am encouraged by two pioneers, Vint Cerf, the father of the internet, and Andy Hertzfeld, an open source advocate, joining the Google team. I do think Google is doing a lot of the things they are for altruistic reasons, but if they can make money while democratizing the internet and "doing no evil", what's the harm?
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Old 09-21-2005, 10:37 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian
...but as long as they respect the wishes of the copyright holders and they aren't violating copyright law...
But isn't that the problem, at least from a legal standpoint? Under the fair use clause, (I am on thin ice here, but this is at least how I understood it), you may scan - for your own purposes - a copyright protected work that you've previously bought. Google has neither bought the books from the libraries they plans to scan, nor do they intend to keep the scans private to themselves.

What made me kinda anxious was when Google offered publishers an opting-out. They asked publishers for a list of the books that the latter didn't want Google to scan. Should it really be that easy for a publicly traded company to change laws to its own will, no matter how altruistic its goals? Shouldn't it have been Google to write a list of books they plan to scan and to send this list to the publishers asking for permission?
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Old 09-22-2005, 06:57 AM   #5
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Conspiracy theory

The Author's Guild arguments just don't ring true, but they do have a familiar ring to them. It took me a while to figure out, but I heard the same basic argument from the RIAA.

Then it struck me. The Author's Guild isn't about the authors. The arguments have nothing to do with piracy, copyright, etc. All that is a smoke screen for the real issues: control and relevancy.

Today, publishers (and other groups of non-authors who add no value to a published work) have a large measure of control over who gets published how and when. But they have to be responsive to the reading public. Google Print will remove that control. The reading public will demand books that the publishers don't want published (or don't have plans to publish).

The reading public will also see how many works by dead authors aren't in the Public Domain and start asking why.

As technology moves forward with things like printing a book on demand and on to eBooks, groups like publishers and the Author's Guild become irrelevant - they offer no value. So they have a vested interest in slowing down any technological innovation that threatens to speed up their (much needed, IHMO) demise.

Imagine a world where an author writes a book via a word processor, sends it to the book clearing house so that Google can index it - where a person can find (and peruse a bit) a book via the web, then head down to the local bookshop where with a swipe of his credit card, get that book printed on demand - or downloaded to his PDA.

What does an author need a Guild or a publisher for in such a world?

Last edited by rlauzon; 09-22-2005 at 07:00 AM.
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Old 09-22-2005, 07:05 AM   #6
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Agreed. Funny I had the exact same feeling like you about the Authors Guild. RIAA, MPAA, Authors Gild, sounds all the same to me... all they do is trying to protect THEIR OWN interests, which is rarely the same as the interest of music artists or book writers.
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Old 09-22-2005, 02:37 PM   #7
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University of Michigan and EFF enter the game:

http://www.umich.edu/news/?Releases/2005/Sep05/r092105
"This is a tremendously important public policy discussion. In the future, most research and learning is going to take place in a digital world. Material that does not exist in digital form will effectively disappear. We need to decide whether we are going to allow the development of new technology to be used as a tool to restrict the public's access to knowledge, or if we are going to ensure that people can find these works and that they will be preserved for future generations."

http://www.eff.org/news/archives/2005_09.php#003994
In defending the lawsuit, Google is relying on the copyright principle of fair use, which allows the public to copy works without having to ask permission or pay licensing fees to copyright holders. EFF believes Google is likely to prevail on its defense. One key point in Google's favor is that Google Print is a transformative use of these books -- the company is creating a virtual card catalog to assist people in finding relevant books, rather than creating replacements for the books themselves.

In addition, it is almost certain that Google Print will boost, rather than hurt, the market for the copyrighted books. "It's easy to see how Google Print can stimulate demand for books that otherwise would lay undiscovered in library stacks," said von Lohmann. "It's hard to see how it could hurt publishers or authors."
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Old 09-22-2005, 06:33 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian
... but as long as they respect the wishes of the copyright holders and they aren't violating copyright law
Except: #1, they aren't respecting the wishes of the copyright holders, because they are asking Google NOT to do this.

#2, It is not clear at all if Google is within the law on this one. Remember Michael Robertson's gimmick on MP3.com that involved ripping a mountain of CDs and making them available to anyone who could prove they owned the same physical cd? Yes this is a slightly different scenario, but the same core action has to be taken: all that material has to be copied in a manner that copyright law gives to the owners. IIRC Fair Use allows you to make limited copies, of limited amounts, but clearly this goes beyond what fair use intended.

My problem with this all is two fold:

1. Google could have avoided a lot of this problem if it had gone to the major publisher's first and pitched their case. Instead, they are asking for forgiveness instead after pissing off a bunch of large corporate interests. Regardless of how anyone feels about it, that is not the smart way to do it.

2. Going with an "opt-out" option only made the situation worse, because it is asking the copyright holders to take action to prevent something they don't want happening from happening. That's not how copyright law works.

Frankly I'm getting tired of the automatic "Google good, publishers bad" knee-jerk reactions I'm seeing on this. It's one thing for google to catalog all the books in the world using readily available meta-data (title, author, publisher, etc); it's quite another thing to digitize the entire books themselves. Whether or not they as a business are entitled to do that with property they don't own is an unanswered legal question.
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Old 09-22-2005, 08:21 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmeister0
Except: #1, they aren't respecting the wishes of the copyright holders, because they are asking Google NOT to do this.
From what I understand, copyright holders (which, interestingly, is not nearly the same list as "authors") are saying "don't do this project" and "don't put our books in this project" as opposed to what Google asked which is "send us a list of works that you don't want in our project."

What I hear from the copyright holders is "We won't produce a list because we don't want it to be generally known how many works of dead authors are not in the public domain, or how many works are in danger of being lost because we don't remember that we own the copyright to them, or how many works we AREN'T publishing."

Quote:
Originally Posted by rmeister0
1. Google could have avoided a lot of this problem if it had gone to the major publisher's first and pitched their case. Instead, they are asking for forgiveness instead after pissing off a bunch of large corporate interests. Regardless of how anyone feels about it, that is not the smart way to do it.
On the contrary, this would have brought everything to court much sooner - before anything got started. We already know what the publishers would have said: "No!"

Quote:
Originally Posted by rmeister0
2. Going with an "opt-out" option only made the situation worse, because it is asking the copyright holders to take action to prevent something they don't want happening from happening. That's not how copyright law works.
Seeing how those same copyright holders made the finding of the owner of a particular work nearly impossible (or prohibitively expensive), an "opt out" option was the only way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rmeister0
Frankly I'm getting tired of the automatic "Google good, publishers bad" knee-jerk reactions I'm seeing on this.
Publishers aren't "bad". They are simply becomming less and less relevant. To combat that, they are bribing our "representatives" in gov't to effectively legislate their business model. I don't see this as "bad" any more than I see the actions of a dying animal as "bad". I understand why they are doing this, but I don't have to like it.
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Old 09-22-2005, 08:41 PM   #10
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Alex, you were quoting the EFF saying:

In defending the lawsuit, Google is relying on the copyright principle of fair use, which allows the public to copy works without having to ask permission or pay licensing fees to copyright holders.

But since when...

1. Google = the public?
2. fair use = copying of works without having to ask permission or pay licensing fees to copyright holders?

To many people Google still looks like the white angel of the new Internet boom. Sadly, this is not so.
  • Google is a $85b corporation based in the US.
  • Google is definitely not representing the public.
  • Google may have the chance to twist "fair use" to its advantage, but fair use doesn't universally apply abroad - so what about the books to be scanned from the UK, France, Germany & other non-US countries?
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Old 09-22-2005, 09:38 PM   #11
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Quite the debate going on over at Boing Boing in which many of these points are being raised:

http://www.boingboing.net/2005/09/21...ld_sues_g.html

The fair use doctrine does not prohibit commercial use based on Supreme Court rulings.
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Old 09-23-2005, 05:29 AM   #12
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OK, but that still doesn't mean you can apply fair use on non-US works.
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Old 09-23-2005, 11:27 AM   #13
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Quote:
From what I understand, copyright holders (which, interestingly, is not nearly the same list as "authors") are saying "don't do this project" and "don't put our books in this project" as opposed to what Google asked which is "send us a list of works that you don't want in our project."
Yes, but like it or not, the copyright owners own the rights - NOT Google. It should not be incumbent on them to "opt out" - it should be incumbent on Google to get permission. THAT is how copyright works.

A copyright owner is not required to tell each and every person on the planet that they don't want their property copied. That is what copyright does in the first place.

Quote:
On the contrary, this would have brought everything to court much sooner - before anything got started. We already know what the publishers would have said: "No!"
It could not have gotten to court because no action was being taken if they went and asked permission first. If the owners say no - guess what? THAT IS THEIR RIGHT, and it should be respected.

Google handled this VERY poorly, and I don't see how anyone with a brain couldn't have forseen the reaction.
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Old 09-23-2005, 07:00 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmeister0
Yes, but like it or not, the copyright owners own the rights - NOT Google. It should not be incumbent on them to "opt out" - it should be incumbent on Google to get permission. THAT is how copyright works.
Copyright was created to give AUTHORS control over the copying of their the works for a LIMITED time. Not to give faceless corporations who create nothing exclusive control over those works for all eternity.

Copyright only works when artistic works are put back into the Public Domain, to enrich the next crop of artists so that they can create even better works. Because nothing has gone into the Public Domain for over 50 years (unless the author specifically puts something there), the Public Domain is getting stale.

Look at Disney. Take their best works: Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Peter Pan, etc. Nearly everything was taken from the Public Domain. Now, in the last 20 years, count the number of "classics" Disney made. (Also count the number of "reruns" that Disney has made - Treasure Planet, The Absent-Minded Professor, etc. - because they have no Public Domain to dip into to create new works.)

A wonderful example of how the REFUSAL of copyright holders (not authors) to share is killing the creative ability of our country.

And now the copyright holders (again, not the authors) want to EXPAND this madness to other countries.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rmeister0
Google handled this VERY poorly, and I don't see how anyone with a brain couldn't have forseen the reaction.
Because "It's always easier to get forgiveness than permission."

Google handled it right. The Author's Guild and the publisher have handled it wrong.

Google is creating something that will help them all. However, it will demonstrate how long copyrights are hurting our society and that's something that the copyright holders need to keep quiet.
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Old 09-24-2005, 06:04 AM   #15
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Here is another intersting round-up of opinions:
http://www.iptablog.org/2005/09/21/g...eing_evil.html
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