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  1. #1
    Administrator Dave's Avatar
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    Google's book-scanning on hold

    I see that Google has suspended it's plan to scan millions of books and add them to it's search database. Intense pressure from irate copyright-holders has forced the temporary halt.

    Google has been scanning copyrighted books from libraries around the world in the hope that the owners of the copyright wouldn't mind. Google claims it's all in the interest of sharing knowledge so it's a "public good" endeavour.

    Unsurprisingly, the Association of American Publishers (http://www.publishers.org) does mind. How Google didn't see this coming is beyond me. Google is planning to take vast amounts of copyrighted material and effectively make it worthless by providing it free to Internet users. What's more, Google is presumably going to be making a tidy profit themselves by adding their standard advertisements to search results.

    Google has responded by offering to allow copyright owners to opt out of the system. I don't know of anyone who honestly thinks opt-out systems like this are fair or workable. It's a joke as far as spam is concerned and it's totally unacceptable in the Google case. Opt-in is the only rational solution, but Google knows they wouldn't get enough content doing this.

    On the whole I'm a big fan of Google and I'm happy to support most of their advertising models. Unfortunately, these days their "do no evil" mantra is looking more and more shaky. This is only one of a number of projects where Google is using other people's content without their permission to make money.

    The folks at Google need to pull their heads in.
    Dave Owen
    MediaCollege.com

  2. #2

    Perhaps Google should.....

    Dave, I am in complete agreement.
    Perhaps google should have their sites, the advertizing and serch engine capabilities provided for free. Only those who feel the need can opt-in to pay for the services.
    How would they like that?
    Copperman.

  3. #3
    Administrator Dave's Avatar
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    An updated story here:
    http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/interne....ap/index.html

    Google is busy making concessions and justifications, but the fact remains: They are taking copyright material without permission and making money out of it. This is a precedent we cannot afford.

    Suggesting that it is the publisher's responsibility to exclude books from the database is ridiculous. It's tantamount to theft, like breaking into someone's house and saying "Well, you didn't tell me you don't want this stuff stolen".

    How does Google think it's fair to inflict the financial burden onto publishers when it's Google who is making the profit?

    Opt-in, not opt-out!
    Dave Owen
    MediaCollege.com

  4. #4
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    I think the issue is a little more complicated.

    I am a producer of content in several contexts: scholarship, art, music, and theater. I rely on copyright, and I agree that it is indispensible in providing fair recompense for people's labors that result in intellectual(-only) property.

    But it doesn't appear that Google intends to make available free copies of copyrighted material. Indexing a work is not the same as copying it, although one can certainly argue that the digital copy required by the indexing process is illegal. Simply allowing someone to search the content of a book for words or phrases is not tantamount to allowing someone to read it. If they are simply providing a brief excerpt as context for search "hits" then this might be considered an appropriate use.

    The question is whether Google's activities constitute a means by which purchase of the work can be evaded, thus depriving the owner of the work from his compensation. The precise limits on how much context you get need to be carefully thought through. The "20% or one chapter" rule, for example, applies only to classroom sets for education. For many books, Amazon.com lets you browse a few pages for free.

    In general, the ability to search the contents of a book, I think, would lead to better sales for the book, and doesn't necessarily violate either the letter or the spirit of copyright. It's only when people can get the benefits of the book without having to buy it, or to submit to the limitations of "public" copies (e.g., at the library), that Google needs to tread carefully.

    The other issue is with out-of-print works. Certainly some works are in the public domain. A theater at which I frequently work relies on public-domain plays because it simply cannot afford royalties. Making those works available in digital form is an even greater boon.

    But not everything that is out of print is in the public domain. Simply because the publisher has elected not to print any more copies doesn't mean he has renounced his right to do so. Until the copyright term on the work has expired, someone owns the rights to it and therefore the exclusive right to profit from it.

    In the middle you have a small community of "orphaned" works -- works whose copyright term may not have expired, but whose copyright holder cannot be determined or is defunct. The legal status of orphaned works is currently being litigated. I tend to side with those who err on the side of considering the work public domain.

    In any case, I applaud Google for wanting to make the world more indexed. But you can't just thumb your nose at intellectual property.

  5. #5
    Administrator Dave's Avatar
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    If Google can compromise their plan enough that no copyright text is made available, I wouldn't have a serious problem with it. However Google officials have been quoted as saying they want to make books available online without having to obtain permission. Until I hear them categorically state otherwise I'm still assuming the worst.

    Quote
    Quote: JayW
    But you can't just thumb your nose at intellectual property.
    That's really what it's all about. I don't care if Google has the best motives in the world. It doesn't matter if lots of people benefit. If I steal money from my wealthy neighbour to buy books for my local school, it's still theft.

    The bottom line is that you can't justify theft by saying it's a public service.
    Dave Owen
    MediaCollege.com

  6. #6
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    The latest I heard regarding Google's proposed policy is that their engine would give you only five pages of context for a search hit in a copyrighted work. They also have plans somehow to restrict printing. I'm not sure Google has yet warmed up to the idea that out-of-print books may still have copyright protection. If they want to make public-domain works available for free, I think that's great.

    But I still balk at the 5-page context; that's too much, in my opinion. I'd say give a paragraph, and then a link to the book's table of contents and maybe a sponsored link to Amazon if the book is currently for sale.

    There certainly is a lot of anti-copyright rhetoric flying around. As with any right, copyright can be misused. And it is sad that some people use it to attempt to maximize profit. But I don't agree with the notion that intellectual property ought to be free simply because it's technically possible for it to be freely distributed. And if Google is trying to ride the anti-copyright bandwagon in order to extort publishers out of justly-earned compensation, then they're going to have a rough ride.

  7. #7
    Administrator Dave's Avatar
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    Re: Google's book-scanning on hold

    I see the Book Search has moved to an open Beta stage. I've looked at a couple of results and don't see much to change my mind yet. Lots of statement like "Copyright Material" and "We must protect material which is Copyrighted", but in the end I still have to ask:

    Did Google get permission to use this copyright material before preaching to us about how it's copyrighted? Ironic really.
    Dave Owen
    MediaCollege.com

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