Google Halts Scanning of Copyrighted Books

Source Title:
Google Halts Scanning of Copyrighted Books
Story Text:

Google announced that they are temporarily not going to scan copyrighted material until November. The Association of American Publishers is not very happy.

"Google wants publishers to notify the company which copyrighted books they don't want scanned, effectively requiring the industry to opt out of the program instead of opting in.
Google's procedure shifts the responsibility for preventing infringement to the copyright owner rather than the user, turning every principle of copyright law on its ear."

Ya gotta envy Google for being big enough that they can try to turn around the princples of copyright permissions. Kinda funny if you think about scraper sites in the same way. They will take your content unless you send them a DMCA asking them to stop. Also it's a little weird to see Google on Yahoo's homepage.



I guess with this new copyright analogy, I can distribute free copies of music and movies off my website. Publishers of course can opt out of my new plan. =)

It's odd ...

I find it odd that, legalities being what they are, Google seems to act as if it can do anything with whatever it finds on the Web or elsewhere. Where are their lawyers?


Laws don't typically apply to people who have more money than their complaintant. =)

Until the day ...

Until the day when someone takes them up on it.

The middle ground is disappearing

This Library Project issue is starting to separate everyone into two camps. There used to be the perception of a reasonable middle ground on this issue, but now it is crunch time.

You have the "information wants to be free" pundits already screaming that Google is caving in to the big publishers. But many book contracts specify that the copyright reverts to the author once the book is out of print. Google considers everything, except stuff like government documents, that was published after 1922 to be copyrighted. (And the U.S. government has their own digitization program in the works for government documents.)

Where does that leave Google? An association such as the Authors Guild or the National Writers Union could serve a cease and desist on the University of Michigan based on Section 108 (library copying) of the Copyright Act, and Google would be left with an uninteresting pile of pre-1922 stuff to play with. End of Google's Library Project.

I've been following this issue closely. My analysis of Google's new position is at

this is the beginning

IMO we're going to see a lot more of this type of stuff; copyright and intellectual property battles are only going to get worse. it'll be like white hat vs black hat -- another fun debate! :)

This "opt out" shit has to

This "opt out" shit has to STOP

Who the hell do they think they are? "We're going to violate your rights, but hey, you can opt out of that violation!"

John Battelle, one whom i generally hold in quite high regard has lost the plot on this one also.

All I can say is - let's work this out, folks. This ain't Napster. I know the book industry has issues with this, and they are significant, but man, they are completely shooting themselves in the foot if they don't figure out how to leverage Google and search in general to sell down the long tail. Sheesh.

That's not an opinion, that's a "let's use blog buzz to suck up to google" ploy - mentioning the long tail does NOT make it alright for a corporation to systematically, and wilfully violate the copyrights of millions of publishers.

Google Borg

Resistance is futile your works will be asimilated and added to the collective

New tech engenders new laws.

New tech engenders new laws. We're going to see a lot of laws tested, and new laws written. I want to see large companies push and shove and see what they can get away with and what they get hammered for. They've got deep enough pockets to absorb the cost of litigation without having a huge financial crisis.

And no, the web isn't the "Wild West". That was about vigilantes. What we're seeing now is more like what happened during the Industrial Revolution. Tycoons and Robber Barons ruled and made the laws. Until the people got together to demand change. What we're seeing is nothing new, it's just happening at a faster pace.

my vote

My vote is for full opt in on everything. If I want it, I'll ask for it. Those people are nutbars who have been mentally inbreeding for far too long.

And since Google seems to feel strongly that the TOS they publish on their properties has the weight of law, is the copyright notice published in most books not of equal or stronger weight?

And how come they don't do this with movies or music that people want to see? Is it not the same thing? Maybe they're they are afraid of the RIAA. Or anyone who actually demonstrates a willingness to go after perceived copyright violations.

There is a talking book library project for the blind which is backed by grants from government, banks, IBM, Cisco, and Bill Gates. They acquired the right to transcribe the Harry Potter series of books from the publisher under strict contractual terms. They did this in advance of starting work, and do this with every work by every publisher. They have no where near the amount of money that Google has. So what is Google's excuse?

Their strategy will likely be, as recent history shows, to lie low and wait for another day(prefetch). Perhaps they'll add the silent treatment too(cnet). The same strategy stubborn children employ. They just won't listen. Until someone slaps them hard enough.

In analogy:

Person G finds person B somewhat attractive, or at least palatable, as person G is more interested in quantity than quality.

While person B is asleep, person G has their way with them while rolling the camera.

Person G then publishes the images on the web with text ads on the same pages.

On finding out about this, person B protests, as does the significant other, person P.

Person G blames the victim, "well you should have opted out in advance, because you know I have a history of doing this and its permitted in my TOS. In any case, here's a web form for you to fill out and fax back to me for consideration when I get around to it."

The courts might not even accept a plea of insanity on this one.

Too many MBA's and GEEKS at Google HQ.

(feel free to fill in the relevant links)

with all due respect

Digital Ghost,

With all due respect, I take your point. But I would like to add that copyright law as it applies to books has been well tested over time. It would guess that Google has deeper pockets than many publishers. If they really want to test the law, they should try distributing copies of a movie backed by say, Stephen Spielberg.

But we've had the change. To turn your example around,
it's more like Google is trying to make a comeback as
king of the robber barons.

I love books. I prefer reading it on paper to reading it on screen.

Paper publishers already have a hard enough time staying afloat. It would be a shame to see more of them go under.

(ever tried underlining important parts in electronic documentation? that yellow highlight keeps moving around on the screen :0 )

>>But I would like to add

>>But I would like to add that copyright law as it applies to books has been well tested over time.

Agreed. But digital archiving is new. 60 years ago if someone wanted to archive books, they needed to buy or acquire a copy. So my question is, is this about archiving, or copyright, or both? What are the boundaries?

This needs to be tested.

I won't break any laws if I send you my hardbound copy of LOTR. What if I bought a digital copy, and lent it to you? And you lent it to a friend of yours...

It's the copying that seems to be the problem. In the Digital Age, copying is easy. But is it legal to copy if your intent is to archive? Is the Wayback Machine breaking copyright laws?

If the medium is the culprit, then new laws are needed.

Copyright law ...

Copyright law is just that: the right to copy. That right to copy is held by the copyright owner. It is not an "opt out" law.

There are also other issues, not the least of which is income garnered from infringed copyrighted works. Go to court; you get the money the infringer made.

This is pretty standard stuff.

>>This is pretty standard

>>This is pretty standard stuff.

Is it? If it were that easy, there would be a lot fewer copyright cases. Lawyers don't like to take high-profile cases in which the odds of winning are poor.

>>income garnered from infringed copyrighted

There ya go. It is always about the money.

Which is also why I think people are jumping the gun when they say this is "simple" or "cut and dried".


Don't most recent books have something like this:

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise with out express prior written permission of the publisher

That seems pretty simple to grasp and not open to much interpretation. Of course older books won't have anything like that.

Implied with copyright. All

Implied with copyright. All of it. Yet, here we are, with caching, Internet Archive, etc. And that "no part" bit, ignores fair use...
Which is why I think we need some serious tests of current laws.

Don't think that I mean Google is right, I think caching violates copyright law, let alone copying books for archival purposes, or worse, to monetize that content.

copyright vs archive

I think that the financial issue is how many views can be had at the same time of one paid copy. A hardcopy book can only be used by one person at a time, save for looking over the shoulder. Even a discarded newspaper is passed from hand to hand and read by one person at a time. A digital copy can be accessed simultaneously by many, and the copyright holder should be compensated many times in this model.

There is a game service that lets users rent the usage of electronic images of the game cartridges which it has bought and paid for. They have an interlock system which only allows simultaneous access to as many copies as it actually owns. The publishers have reluctantly accepted this on the basis that they have been properly compensated for as many copies as are in use at any given time. Yes, this has been tested legally, or at least reviewed by the publishers' lawyers. It is a fairly well known case in electronic intellectual property circles.

Will google actually pay for as many copies as it grants access to in the course of its activities?

As for copyright versus archive, I think that intent has a lot to do with it. Making a copy and then pushing it out surrounded by text ads is not archiving. It is republishing for profit without proper compensation to the copyright owner. That would clearly be actionable.

As for:

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise with out express prior written permission of the publisher

First, I agree that these terms are presumed in any work to which copyright applies.

Second, notice that it does not mention sharing the work, which is permissible.

But, notice the prohibition on copying and reproduction which is what Google wants to do.

And notice the requirement for express prior written permission of the publisher

This is clearly not what what Google thinks it needs to comply with when arguing opt out.

This is any important issue and ought to receive the widest publicity possible. It is exactly the way the end of the robber barons came to pass. And for as long as Google persists it acting like a robber baron, they deserve to come to the same end. It's unfortunate that while robber barons had to change modus operandi, at the end of the day, they got to keep the fortunes they had amassed. There ought to be a law :)

There ought to be a law :)

Agreed. Which is why I want to see the laws tested. Better now than before fortunes are amassed.

at the movies

Well there is a law :)

What is needed is a test case.

It would be great if Google decided to do movies and music instead. It would be hugely amusing to watch the studios and music publishers go after someone with as deep pockets as they have instead of 12 year old kids.

Just listening to the spin doctors could be worth hours of mirth and untold gallons of coffee spit onto keyboards.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.