10 August 2006 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 13 comments

Dimitri Rotov beat me to the punch on this one. Google’s at it again, still pressing forward with its scheme of massive copyright infringement. This time, its partner in crime is the University of California system.

Here’s the latest:

The University of California (UC) system announced on Wednesday that it has inked a pact with search giant Google to digitize millions of books in its libraries as part of the Mountain View, Calif.-based firm’s Google Books Library Project, an initiative that aims to digitize volumes from the world’s vast array of libraries and make content available online, The Daily Californian reports.

Robert Dynes, UC president, said in a release that the project “greatly expands our ability to give scholars and the public access to the kinds of information and ideas that drive scholarly innovation and public knowledge discourse,” according to The Daily Californian.

Others parties that have joined Google in its digitization efforts include the University of Michigan, Stanford University, Harvard University and the New York Public Library, among others, The Daily Californian reports.

The UC network includes 10 campuses across the state that are home to some 34 million library books, and though UC has not specified which books will be digitized, it has said millions of volumes will be scanned under the initiative, according to The Daily Californian.

As part of the deal, Google will foot the bill for the books’ scanning, and the UC system will be responsible for initial start-up fees and maintenance to the tune of one to multiple millions of dollars for the first year and hundreds of thousands of dollars each additional year, The Daily Californian reports.

After a volume is scanned, two digital copies will be provided—one to the UC and one to Google for use on the Web, according to The Daily Californian. For public books, users will be able to search texts and read complete versions, and excerpts of some copyrighted texts will also be available, The Daily Californian reports.

Google has come under fire in recent months because it digitizes some copyrighted materials without first obtaining approval from the works’ authors, and a number of authors and copyright holders have even filed suit against the search firm, according to The Daily Californian.

A handful of the parties involved in the Google Books Library Project have chosen not to scan copyrighted works, but the UC system will allow some copyrighted material to be digitized, The Daily Californian reports.

The last clause of the last sentence is the telling one. “The UC system will allow some copyrighted material to be digitized, the Daily Californian reports.” In short, the UC system is encouraging copyright infringement and the theft of intellectual property.

Let’s assume for a moment that we’re talking about the digitizing of millions of books, as the article says. Let’s also assume that only a percentage of them are in the public domain. That means that each and every other work that is digitized without the prior consent of the author constitutes a copyright infringement. This means that there are potentially millions of copyright infringements that will occur, and the University of California system is encouraging, and, in fact, facilitating them.

The issue with all of this, of course, is that if it’s done without the permission of the copyright holders–and I have specifically instructed my publishers to tell Google that I do NOT grant permission for the digitizing of my copyrighted work–it’s no different than stealing. It is, in fact, theft facilitated by precisely the sort of institution that is supposed to preserve and protect the intellectual property rights of even some of the academics who teach in the UC system.

It seems to me that the University of California system is engaging in hypocrisy of the worst variety.

It also seems to me that the only way to prevent this theft of intellectual property is for Congress to act. Sadly, with the Republican culture of corruption dominating Congress, the rights of the little guy are at the very bottom of the list of Congressional priorities. Thus, unless the courts issue the injunctions requested in the litigation pending against Google, authors like me will continue to be powerless to prevent the theft of our intellectual property.

And if that happens, then I will stop writing. There will be no reason to continue at that point if I can’t have some protection over the fruits of my hard labors and cannot expect to receive some return on the very large investment of money that I make in researching these books. If the fruits of my labor (and financial investment) can be stolen with alacrity and I am powerless to prevent it, why bother?

Scridb filter


  1. Scott
    Thu 10th Aug 2006 at 11:10 pm

    Authors of most non-fiction books know that it is a labor of love. The financial returns are not enough to change one’s lifestyle. Copyright is all we have to protect our work. Now it seems that copyright is being infringed upon in name of creating a digitized library – ie free books and less royalties. The next step will be widespread plagarism! What has happened to America? Seems like so many laws are being ignored.

  2. Paul Taylor
    Fri 11th Aug 2006 at 7:52 am


    I wholeheartedly agree with your opinion that this constitutes theft and infringement. Despite that, I know deep down inside that it would not, could not, stop me from writing. The muse would not allow it otherwise. The books I try to create are, first off and foremost, done for my own edification. Sales, positive reviews, ROE, etc. are all ancillary.

    Some guys go out to their woodshop and build a chair. Other guys go into their garage and build a hot rod. I go into my office and build a book. Unless one does these things for a living, I think self-satisfaction is the primary motivating source.


  3. John D. Mackintosh
    Fri 11th Aug 2006 at 9:23 am

    My sole and most humble contribution to the world of books was done for a pure love of the subject. The discovery of Lt. George D. Wallace’s role at the Little Big Horn, his important testimony at the Reno Court of Inquiry, and his death at Wounded Knee, layered under the cloak of obscurity that covered him here in South Carolina, was motivation enough. That, and some important letters in family hands that had not been published. Although this book has appeal to a very narrow segment, as a native of his home county in the Palmetto State I viewed its creation and publication as a duty, one that I enjoyed greatly.

    Let’s see, I fail to see much difference between what Google is aiding and abbeting and someone who sends out bogus spam mail, offering subscriptions to Google’s G-Mail, their paid ISP email, and directs the receiver to a mock Google website, and then swipes credit card numbers of hoodwinked subscribers. It is theft, plain and simple.

    Then again, according to CNBC, Google has already gotten their hands dirty with a thus far small-scale click-fraud scandal that some of their employees hatched in their zeal to drive up advertising revenue. Perhaps they should make it where if I Google the term “Corporate Theft” Google will be the thing that comes up.

  4. Fri 11th Aug 2006 at 10:02 am

    I may be out to lunch on this one, but I find it interesting that a company that is as “technically” astute and “cutting-edge” as Goggle could not develop a way to…

    #1 Set up some sort of permission and rights-granted system that would give the author the power to grant or deny this process.
    #2 Create a way to “control” scanned documents and make them “un-touchable” (i.e. physically protected – like a secure PDF format)
    #3 Institute a cost-system that would be fair and reasonable to all parties involved. Such as an additional royalty system based upon views or downloads.

    I know (as an AD in the magazine industry) that we sell just as many online eMag subscriptions as we do traditional printed Magazine ones. We use a special software and a vendor that converts the issue into a viewable electronic document. One medium feeds the other. Unfortunately, there are limits to what you can protect and everything we do has to go through legal w/ permission on our contracts that pay additional fees to the writers, photographers and artists for the second form of use. My books are also available in eBook formats from the publisher, and all of my years of work for Baseball-Almanac are available online in their archive website. In fact, I recently wrote the introduction (and am editing) a baseball history book by a well-known UK writer – that quotes quite a bit of my material. So as editor, I get to “police” my own reference material that he used. This is a rare and wonderful thing.

    This whole controversy is unfortunate as there are some great Internet/Multi-Media programs out there (such as the “Valley Of The Shadow” project: http://valley.vcdh.virginia.edu/ ) for the archival and sharing of history. However, I’m pretty sure that Google is more interested in profits than preservation. This comes down to the techy-geeks vs. the history-buffs and the geeks have the upperhand.

    Keep fighting the good fight friend! It’s good to have a lawyer (w/ integrity) onboard!

  5. Fri 11th Aug 2006 at 10:05 am

    In my opinion this scheme is pure theft and nothing less. Copyrights are, and should remain, a sacred part of our system – in fact, when you think about it the copywriting of intellectual property is one of the things that differentiates our democratic system from that of others.

    I don’t think the Republican/Democrat situation matters a hoot, to be frank. Congress needs to be made aware of the problem and to act, plain and simple. The “culture of corruption” of the administration fabricated by the media (hey, they did the same with Clinton – stupidity doesn’t descriminate) truly exists with Google and the U of C – and that’s where we need change now.


  6. Valerie Protopapas
    Fri 11th Aug 2006 at 10:13 am

    Perhaps no one has noticed it, but there has been an ongoing assault on the very concept of ‘private property’ in the United States for many years. Of course, originally it meant something tangible – such as one’s actual real property – but it has progressed to the point at which it affects other ‘property concepts’ including behavior. The New Jersey Legislature condemned lower middle class people’s homes under ’eminent domain’ not to build a bridge or a highway for the good of the community, but to give the property to developers who ostensibly were going to create shopping centers and other business areas in hopes of raising the economic level of the area. Local jurisdictions intrude into everything homeowners do to their property, often without any possible justification for the intrusion. For iinstance, in Huntington, if your deck is over 10″ off the ground, you must have a suitable railing of a certain height around it to prevent folks from falling off! And, of course, with every ‘improvement’ to one’s domicile or business, local taxes rise in response.

    Therefore, is it any wonder that ‘intanglibles’ such as intellectual property (books, music etc.) are even MORE at risk from this particular assault? After all, if I want to read your book and don’t want to pay for the privilege even of getting up off my duff and taking it from the local library, what right have you to stop me? And what right has any author to ‘interfere’ with something like the internet simply to protect his work?

    On the one hand, these two examples may seem diametric in nature. In the latter, it may appear as if the public is being given the ‘freedom’ it is denied in such instances as cited above with local government. In other words, instead of government ‘regulation’, there is a LACK of same that is permitting people to essentially break existing laws. But to me, this is all of a piece. It is an assault on the very CONCEPT of ‘ownership’. On the one hand, it is government interfering with our lives telling us what to do, how to do it and then charging us for the privilege of dealing with our own privately owned property. On the other hand, however, it is government PERMITTING an assault on private property by the public in order to further degrade and erode the very concept that one can OWN something that cannot be taken away or ‘shared’ at government’s whim. Whether these assaults are initiated by governmental authorities (eminent domain, excessive town codes) or by others (Google) and then PERMITTED by government (the ignoring of existing copyright laws), in effect, it is simply part of the same assault.

    In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson’s first version spoke about the inalienable rights of Life, Liberty and PROPERTY which was changed for the sake, I suppose, of certain groups even then, to the Pursuit of Happiness. However, there can be no doubt that historically, an ESSENTIAL ingredient in our freedom has been the right to OWN things – own them without interference (other than that which is sound legally and reasonably) and without the threat of them being taken away by someone else without just and due compensation and only then if we are willing to part with them. This is what is under assault in this instance – among many. However, because the assault is so diffuse, not too many people are really aware of just how powerful and dangerous it is.

  7. John D. Mackintosh
    Fri 11th Aug 2006 at 12:30 pm

    All of this seems so contradictory. As a believer in our free enterprise system, I would expect companies large and small to be among the ranks of those universally and consistently respecting anyone and everyone’s property rights. Judging by the anger surrounding China’s disregard for everything from patents for medications to video game counterfeits, I think most businesses are this way. Why isn’t Google? I understand that many of the books they want to make available over the interent are in the public domain, probably most of the classics of 19th century literature fall in that category. I just wonder if there is a disconnect in the lines of communication somewhere in the vast Univ. of Calif. system., that assuranaces have been given that everything they are digitizing is in the public domain by those who have been misinformed. The old saying that goes something like “Nothing focuses the mind more than mortal danger” has application here as nothing will focus their minds more than a lawsuit. If miscommunication as at fault, that will help get to the bottom of it.

  8. Chuck
    Fri 11th Aug 2006 at 12:35 pm

    Wow. Lots of anger out there……..

    Does anyone know of work being digitized even after the copyright holder stated they do not grant permission?
    I know of no legitamate company making a large amount of a copyright work available for free download or viewing without having to pay a fee or without specific restrictions that the copyright holder agreed to. Google included.

    Eric’s point about stealing is well taken, but is that really what’s going on? Napster was stealing. An entire work was being copied and given out for free without permission of the copyright holder…..but is Google making an entire work available for free without the copyright holders’ permission?

    Much of the discussion about Googles’ Book Search derives from the age old argument of what constitutes “Fair Use”. This is an ever changing issue with the courts.
    If taken to the extreme (copy half a book, use 30 minutes of a film, etc.), it obviously infringes on copyright. However, on the flip side, if one were to disallow the very idea of “Fair Use”, one would not be allowed to photocopy even one page of a book in a library. Even photocopying maps from books for Civil War Roundtable talks or tours could be seen as infringing on copyright (and in some cases it is, since the copies are being distributed in large numbers without credit or permission). Yet it is done quite extensively and without thought.

    So the courts have tried to put a balance on just how much copying of material is allowed and for what purpose before it becomes copyright infringement. To complicate the issue, there is no clear answer (and my guess is it will always continue to be murky unless the rulings approach absolutes). Essentially whenever one copies anything that is copyright, one is taking a chance that the copyright holder will sue for infringement.

    Before the digital age, “Fair use” was usually argued in Educational Institutions (such as UC) and Libraries. It has now stretched out into the general public.

    It is not my intent to defend Google, however I must admit I have used the Google book search program (which is really what it is). Quite honestly, the Google search has given me leads on books that pertain to my research that I would not necessarily have known about because I can search for specific terms or individuals and determine in some cases if the reference is worth tracking down the book for. Google does not allow you to read large parts of a copyright work. In some cases you can read a page or two (and that’s after you log in to an account), in other cases you cannot read the page at all.
    In my view, where Google’s real value lies is providing access to entire public domain works (example: Herman Haupt’s very rare 1864 Book on Military Railroad Bridges) allowing me to read them when I have time that otherwise would have taken hours in a library to read….If the local library had the work to begin with. However, even in the case of Public Domain works, the provider of the copy may not allow full access, but only excerpts.

    In fact, Google’s policy states quite explicitly:

    “Because many of the books in Google Book Search are still under copyright, we limit the amount of a book that a user can see. In order to enforce these limits, we make some pages available only after you log in to an existing Google Account (such as a Gmail account) or create a new one. The aim of Google Book Search is to help you discover books, not read them cover to cover, so you may not be able to see every page you’re interested in.”

    In this case, based on the excerpt presented, it is obvious that Google and UC are pushing the “Fair Use” doctrine. It remains to be seen if they succeed.
    That UC is allowing the digitizing of works in its library does not really surprise me as they have been in the forefront of “Fair Use” for years. However, the question becomes….are they violating any copyright? The article does not say what works are being digitized for public use. It may be that they will allow public use for public domain or university-owned works but only enrolled students will be able to access copyright works that permission has been granted for. Educational institutions get permission from copyright holders to allow on-line access to vast amounts of copyright material for enrolled students only all the time. So just digitizing it, doesn’t mean it will be accessible to the public at large, or that arrangements haven’t been made with copyright holders.

    Now….having said all of the above, clearly the copyright holder should have the right to opt out of any digitizing program Or limit what is digitized (i.e. Amazon’s “look inside” idea), just as Eric has done with his works. Period. No one else has control of the right.
    Based on the article stated above, I’m not sure that UC or Google is doing anything wrong. I guess if a copyright holder sues, the courts will decide.

    Now, let me put my helmet on before everyone gangs up on me………..

  9. Fri 11th Aug 2006 at 8:34 pm


    I would agree with you straight down the line….

    It’s fairly clear to me that the UC System is going to disregard what authors like me have said. Because the books are being put up through the library system without having to go through the publishers, they can really screw guys like me?

    If it’s public use, it’s copyright infringement. and I would be inclined to file suit myself.


  10. Fri 11th Aug 2006 at 8:36 pm


    The problem with your concept is that it doesn’t go far enough. Whether the document can be altered or not is irrelevant. It’s that the content itself is being made available for free without the author’s permission. If that’s the case, you might as well be able to alter it because the theft has already occurred.


  11. Valerie Protopapas
    Sat 12th Aug 2006 at 9:39 am

    I will only address the question ‘why’ as in ‘why’ would Google do what most manufacturers are against doing (handing out their merchandise without recompense to the owner). Simple. Profit and, of course, the fact that Google doesn’t have the same sort of ‘merchandise’ that could be abused in such a way. Naturally, they’d howl quickly enough if some other company used something of theirs without permission or recompense, but as that isn’t the case here, profit trumps every other consideration.

    A good example of the end result of this type of thinking is the huge influence and presence of China and its products in our markets. In the beginning, American companies were very pleased to purchase Chinese made goods for little and sell them in our markets for a good profit which still made those goods less costly (and therefore more often purchased) than American-made goods. Now, the Chinese – like that proverbial camel – have far more than their ‘nose in the tent’ of our economy and American companies are reaping the ‘rewards’ of choosing profit over philosophy.

    Lenin once said that capitalists would sell you the rope with which you intended to hang them. I believe that the Google situation is merely one more example of this type of thinking which places short run gains over the long-term results even when those results might be catastrophic.

  12. Jim Epperson
    Sat 12th Aug 2006 at 5:16 pm

    A question: *What* is Google going to put online? Like others, I don’t
    want to be seen as defending them, and as a published author I have
    the same concerns Eric and JD have. *But* if what they are going to
    scan in is stuff for which the copyright has expired (such as Battles and
    Leaders, say), then I don’t see the problem. Now, there are some
    interesting questions to ask here. If my local library has Eric’s
    Trevilian Station book, I can go there and borrow it, and read it, and
    perhaps this takes a sale away from Eric. One could argue (I wouldn’t)
    that this is essentially the same as what Google is doing, if the right
    to access the material extends only to folks with priveleges at the
    appropriate library. But there is no question that the Internet is
    putting a huge strain on issues of copyright and intellectual property


  13. Sat 12th Aug 2006 at 7:27 pm


    If a work is in the public domain, then I have absolutely no problem with it being digitized and made available.

    My objection is SOLELY to the digitizing of copyrighted works without the permission of the author.


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