Publishers vs Google, More Than Meets the Eye

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John has been speaking to the AAP (American Association of Publishers) who are the latest group to sue Google over Google Print. Untill now i just couldn't be arsed to report this story, it was just "much of the same", but the knowlege that some of the larger publishers in the AAP group are looking further than books, at video also, makes it a tad more interesting than your run of the mill GOOG vs Publshers shite.

But there are a few larger issues percolating here that bear discussion. First, who is making the money? Second, who owns the rights to leverage this new innovation - the public, the publisher, or ... Google? Will Google make the books it scans available for all comers to crawl and index? Certainly the answer seems to be no. Google is doing this so as to make its own index superior, and to gain competitive advantage over others. That leaves a bad taste in the publisher's mouths - they sense they are being disintermediated, and further, that Google is reinterpreting copyright law as they do it.

And this is not just about books. If Google - and by extension, anyone else - can scan and index books without permission, why can't they also scan and index video? Look at who owns the book companies that are suing - ahhh, it's Newscorp (Harper Collins), Viacom (Simon&Schuster), Time Warner (Little Brown).

It's not like it's some kind of big revelation to find that this holds implications for all copyrights, in fact members here have been asking "where will it end" for a long time. But it's interesting to note the underlying motives of the latest suit (or one of them anyway).

Personally, i'll hold true to my usual stance on this: It sucks, Google should behave themselves, publishers should fight them to the death.

Comments

Google is in the right here, 100%

Part of me thinks, hey, if the publishers want to be such idiots, go against what quite possibly a majority of their authors want and hasten their own irrelevance, more power to 'em. Hey, it's sure been a rousing success for the RIAA... and we know how beloved major TV networks are, too.

But then I realize that I don't want to wait that long for the publishers' self-inflicted wounds to result in their utter demise... I'd like to see Google and consumers AND authors win a bit earlier, so I am deeply hoping (although admittedly not optimistic) that Google will prevail here.

I have a law degree, but I'm not a practicing lawyer and I'll be the first to admit that it's been a while since my Intellectual Property studies... so I'm not even going to go out on a limb and say whether Google should win strictly on the legal merits or not.

But I will say that I firmly believe their stance is morally right, good for society in the long term, good for authors, and likely even good for publishers.

I think this paragraph from Eric Schmidt (from his WSJ editorial) is particularly instructive:

We show more than this basic information only if a book is in the public domain, or if the copyright owner has explicitly allowed it by adding this title to the Publisher Program (most major U.S. and U.K. publishers have signed up). We refer people who discover books through Google Print to online retailers, but we don't make a penny on referrals. We also don't place ads on Google Print pages for books from our Library Project, and we do so for books in our Publishing Program only with the permission of publishers, who receive the majority of the resulting revenue. Any copyright holder can easily exclude their titles from Google Print -- no lawsuit is required. [emphasis mine]

As for the parties / individuals arguing against Google's stance, I'll ask you this: CACHING ISSUES ASIDE... Do you believe that Google and other search engines should be required to get each Webmaster's permission before including snippets from his or her pages in their search engine?

If you say yes, then you're at least being consistent. If you say no, then I'd be interested to hear how you justify it.

Anyway, I'm hoping that Google prevails not only in this case, but also against the certain fights they'll face when they undoubtedly look to provide snippets of music and video. For years, content providers have selfishly and stupidly fought against innovations that are to the benefit of consumers AND themselves. It's time for the tide to turn.

This isn't about innovation,

This isn't about innovation, and comparisons with the RIAA are frankly bullshit - we're talking here about a billion-dollar corporation that thinks it can disregard existing legal protections to take other people's work and monetise it.

Let's be clear about this - the Google Library Project is not an act of charity, it's a commercial venture, and one that Google seeks to leverage in it's own interests above all others.

What's really behind this, IMO, is that Google sorely lacks a reliable corpus to work with - the internet doesn't belong to Google and there is always the danger of the ISP protections under the DMCA being challenged - plus the quality of material is variable. By digitising libraries, Google can develop a corpus of information it can control, have clear rights to, and also has a high-standard of third-party validation.

If authors want their books copied, scraped, and put online to help a company profit from their work, then I'm sure there are people who will happily do so if requested. However, to believe that a corporate giant somehow has their interests at heart is naive at best.

The basic premise of the idea of digitising libraries is not wrong - demanding that it's Google's interests that must come first above all others absolutely is, and this is the path Google have taken.

If you want something that is "morally right, good for society in the long term, good for authors, and likely even good for publishers" then look at the alternative Open Content Alliance which is supported by Yahoo!.

I'm personally split on this

I'm personally split on this issue. There's pretty much to be said both for and against it. If I should focus on the positive, I would prefer "the French approach" myself, where it's a public effort, and not a privately held company that does the indexing.

slowly, slowly catchee monkey

>> we don't make a penny on referrals
Is no guarantee it won't be monetised later. Slowly, slowly, catchee monkey.

>> Any copyright holder can easily exclude their titles
Does Google contact each copyright holder to inform them of this "right" they have? And compensate them for their time and trouble to opt out? Bear in mind they may not be very websavvy and when they get a letter advising them of their right to exclude their titles they are perfectly entitled to feel they need legal advice. Would Google pay the lawyer? Wouldn't opt-in be the "do no evil" way to go about this?

>> Do you believe that Google and other search engines should be required to get each Webmaster's permission before including snippets from his or her pages in their search engine?
In a way they already do get permission from all webmasters. (Those few who don't know what a robots.txt is can't really be called webmasters).

Like claus

I am perfectly split on this. I can see the advantage for the poplulation at large, I can see the advantage for the authors, I can even see the advantage for publishers and of course there is a huge business advantage for Google.

However, to have that corpus of information in the hands of one private company in one country leaves a lot to be desired. Would Google be prepared to do the work and then donate it to a public organizaton although they and others would have access to it - would they give up the control of the corpus? If they are doing it for the world's good, do it for the world's good.

I must admit that my position moved a bit last night when I read the link that cornwall posted to yesterday's (London) Times in this post.

The open letter if 100% correct, does not show Google in a good light when there is a problem. In fact, the letter shows Google to be underhanded and quite possibly even lying.

I am really interested in this because in mid-December or early January, I am going to be discussing this with Politicians in my home country in the Enterprise and Culture Committee of Parliament. I actually sent the open letter to all of the MSPs and the committee clerk last night when I read it to make sure that they had that information.

>> Do you believe that

>> Do you believe that Google and other search engines should be required to get each Webmaster's permission before including snippets from his or her pages in their search engine?
In a way they already do get permission from all webmasters. (Those few who don't know what a robots.txt is can't really be called webmasters).

Likewise, i believe google has an opt-out policy for authors as well.

also, the fact that google is a private company that is doing this is disturbing to many. i ask: are national governments better at managing digital policies? i think that's unlikely, really unlikely.

Google is doing this so as

Google is doing this so as to make its own index superior, and to gain competitive advantage over others. That leaves a bad taste in the publisher's mouths

This is exactly what Google did with it's cache, and many webmasters have had a bad taste in our mouths about that too.

I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that when the US Congress and the governments of the countries of the rest of the world, set up the various copyright laws they didn't say specifically that Google had a special exemption or a special exhaulted status that gave Google permission to disregard the laws that all the rest of us are obliged to obey. Why should Google be above the law? What makes them better than me?

The difference between this instance and the cache, is that this time they picked on a victim that has the resources to defend itself and that cannot be steamrollered into submission.

As the quote above states, Google is not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, they are seeking competative advantage for their own gain.

There is no opt-out

kidmercury, I don't buy that opt-out is available. Doing a robots.txt is part and parcel of building a website. Knowing about Google's opt-out is not required knowledge for "off-line" authors present and past. Like Shakespeare.

Nobody's saying that national governments are better at anything and nobody's advocating that a particular national government take over the project. All the national governments in the world can be corrupt dictatorships but that on it's own doesn't pass any mantle to a privately owned company ... however big that company. Be they Google. Or Microsoft.

kidmercury, I don't buy that

Quote:
kidmercury, I don't buy that opt-out is available. Doing a robots.txt is part and parcel of building a website. Knowing about Google's opt-out is not required knowledge for "off-line" authors present and past. Like Shakespeare.

Let me play devils advocate here just for a minute.

There is still an argument that says that webmasters should not have to put a robots.txt file on their sites to stop Google etc indexing it. Opt out in general has issues. The thing is, over the years, that argument has become less and less as people generally know that a) this is "how its done" and b) there is a benefit to not exluding bots.

Might that not be the same with book indexing in time?

It's absolutely wrong

Copyright laws plainly and simply mean they can't scan my book and use it. I've never seen anything in copyright about whether you claim you're making money off the duplication, even though nobody here really thinks Google is doing this out of the goodness of their heart right?

I bet they can use snippets, just like I can quote a book or a newspaper article. The fact that they cache entire pages however I absolutely believe that is illegal. Someone rips off my page and redisplays it on their website, now I have to include a robots.txt file to stop this? WTH?

AFAIC, if someone wanted to make a name for themselves they could handily take Google to court on the caching issue.

In that case though, this is

In that case though, this is no different to websites - they cache entire sites, and use that stored information for profit.

personally, i think what is

personally, i think what is needed is a far reduced idea of what constitutes "copyright-able" intellecutal property. as we head more and more to a digital/information-based society, it is going to become more and more possible for anyone to claim intellecutal property over anything they do if we continue to allow copyright laws to be as wide and encompassing as they are.

i like the fact that the burden is on me to exclude search engines; fundamental to the nature of the internet is network thinking, linking, etc., so by putting up my web site, i'm saying i want to be a part of the network. now if i want a web site and dont want it to be part of the network, i think it is reasonable for the burden to be on me.

and as the world becomes more digital, more networked, and more information-based, i think we need to become more liberal in how we apply this type of thinking.

Governments - Sh1t no.

I was certainly not suggesting that individual governments take the step of gathering and digitizing the information. I would rather catch a dose of the clap from my cellmate after being sentenced for bitch-slapping Doug Heil, than put such a useful IT project into the hands of the Scottish, UK or US governments which is the only ones I have experience with. The costs would be phonomonal, it would take up to 30 times the projected timeline that was initially proposed, 25 times the cost, and at the end of it, it probably wouldn't work.

I really want the project to happen. I think it would be a fantastic resource for future generations. I think most authors would want to have their stuff in it. I just find it hard to stomach that the owner should be one private company who are only beholden to their stockholders. If that open letter to the Times is indeed factual, my reservations against Google having the project would grow.

Opt out policies have been discussed for quite a number of years now. If you fill in a form on a website and it has 10 checkboxes at the bottom, all checked, signing you up for enough spam to end world hunger, do you not think that site is trying to screw you? Opt-in policies also are a problem because it could well leave the corpus sadly lacking a lot of the content it should have.

At least the Open Content Alliance are trying to look 'open' and make the stuff available to all. Of course we don't know what will happen in the future. Does anyone know what Google have decided to pass this organization over?

...i think what is needed is

...i think what is needed is a far reduced idea of what constitutes "copyright-able" intellecutal property.

Naw, what we 'need' is for google to do completly away with copyright and property rights, google should take everything we own and use it to make money for google. Why should google be bound by any of our silly laws that we made to protect us and our property?

Google is only looking out for ME and my bank account, I am sure that google will give ME all (or a percentage) of the money that MY property will make for google.

Hey (your name here), you know that article/book you wrote last week/month/year, well I want it. I am going to 'scan' (scrape) your article/book, put it up with some adsense blocks. I'll make some money off of your article/book, but you won't, you don't mind do you? And if you do mind, well go fuck yourself, I'm going to do it anyway...

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