13 March 2006 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 4 comments

I have ranted here at length against Google’s plan to scan entire books and make them available on line for free. The Writers Guild and the national association of publishers have both sued to try to enjoin this program on the grounds that it constitutes copyright infringement, litigation that I have wholeheartedly endorsed. While Google remains unrepentant and wholly in favor of its program of massive copyright infringement, it seems to be trying to make an attempt to satisfy some of the concerns of the authors and publishers.

Google is now offering to permit publishers to sell e-books that would be fully downloadable from Google’s web site. Google claims that the publishers will be able to set their own prices, and that consumers will not be permitted to save a copy to their computer or to copy pages from the books. Former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, the president of the Association of American Publishers, gave this plan faint praise: “I assume in this they would have to be asking the permission of the publisher, and we would say, that’s very good news,” she said. In other words, from her perspective the only saving grace here is that Google is at least asking permission under this program, unlike its other scheme. From my perspective, the fact that they’re asking permission is the ONLY saving grace about this program, and even then, it’s no saving grace at all if the authors don’t get paid royalties from it.

Supposedly, this program is intended to permit publishers to boost their book revenues, but I fail to see the logic of this. If I’m the consumer, and I can’t save a copy of the thing or print it out, what’s the point? Why would I spend my hard-earned money on something that I’m not even permitted to retain a copy of the work that I’ve paid for?

In my mind, there is only one acceptable solution to this problem. Offer links to Amazon.com, where the customer can buy the actual book, or sell them a real e-copy that they can download and keep but which also ensures that authors will be paid royalties to compensate them for the fruits of their labors.

I remain intransigent in my opposition to Google’s programs and remain equally unshaken in my support of the lawsuits filed by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. Anyone who values books should be, too.

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Comments

  1. Vince Slaugh
    Wed 15th Mar 2006 at 12:24 pm

    Hello Eric,

    I’m just trying to figure out where I stand on the issue (as both a researcher using Google Book Search and a probable future author).

    Could you please clarify something for me? It sounds like the current laws regarding copyright infringement didn’t anticipate indexing services like Google Book Search. Would there be a problem if Google (without asking publishers’ permission) just gave the page and line of each citation in the book but not the full page? How about just the sentence or two surrounding it? How about the paragraph, page, pages, etc.? In other words, how much could Google reveal without publishers’ permission–by current law and by your opinion of what’s fair–or does the fact that the entire book is available to search automatically make the program illegal/unfair?

    Thank you very much,
    Vince Slaugh

  2. Thu 16th Mar 2006 at 9:58 pm

    Vince,

    The current laws clearly did not anticipate anything close to where things are today from a technological standpoint. They need to be updated badly.

    In my opinion, any quotation by Google without the express permission of the copyright holder is an infringement.

    Eric

  3. Donogh McCarthy
    Tue 06th Jun 2006 at 11:53 am

    I’m sure you’ve seen this already:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/5052912.stm
    It’s good to see someone take formal/public/publicised action against this

    Regards
    Donogh

  4. Tue 06th Jun 2006 at 5:51 pm

    Donogh,

    Actually, I wasn’t aware of it, but I can’t say I’m surprised. I’m glad to see the French getting on board against this.

    Thanks for passing it along.

    Eric

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