Monday, December 12, 2005

print.google

Prolific advocates for Google Print promote the possibility of "revolutionary" benefits derived from Google's searchable database of published literature. Their assumptions describe benefit primarily as any author's relief from popular obscurity, then allude to general purpose utility and, without irony, to Google's proprietary capacity for arbitrage, given boundless 'fair use' of copyright either permitted or unenforced by US law, but ignore all together contracts between Google and library custodians that govern public access.

Jurisprudence notwithstanding, the moral arguement on which Google marketing stands is as doubtful as public comprehension of benefit or injury it may cause all parties concerned. Often enough, the answer is not in print. For example,

How a fascination with commodity markets (the lexicon of "content") becomes an acceptable proxy for rights and obligations exercised by a person... dead or alive... with regard to another person... dead or alive.
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How Google appropriation of, rather than cooperation with, commonlaw and social welfare in order to achieve corporate definition subverts public institutions, assets and spaces, while reinforcing the perceived quality of state-sponsored services.
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How print.google, if it prevails in pending litigation, will destroy the value of existing blogs and personal websites which filter/digest/market/analyze the same information and are accessible (ceteris paribus) to search.google users, regardless of these authors' AdSense or AdWords affiliation.

To illustrate, following is commentary to radar.oreilly.com that takes up discussion of Tim O'Reilly's New York Times article "Search and Rescue"(9/28/05).

I believe that the authors and publishers realize that in the long run, having their work being easily acccessible and searchable is to their benefit. They aren't dumb! Your column is largely about this, but misses the dollars and cents:
What else do the authors and publishers see? They see that Google has become a hundred BILLION dollar company based largely on their selling ads on top of snippets of web sites. They see that Google would like to do the same with books, and perhaps gain another few BILLION dollars.
Let me put forth this scenario: Let's say some company offered you, an author, an additional one thousand dollars if you gave them rights to scan in your book. Then, they make a hundred thousand dollars off of having your book online. Wouldn't you feel unjustly treated? Ripped off? Or feel like you could have gotten a better deal elsewhere?
Now, add in that they didn't even *ask* for permission to scan in and OCR your book. Now how would you feel?
Even though you have the extra thousand dollars, you still feel like a stooge.
If Google's goal is to make as much money as possible off of authors, then they are heading down the right path. If their goal is to truly spread knowledge to as many people as possible, they should add their efforts to the Open Content Alliance.
Posted by: Andrew S at October 27, 2005 12:42 AM

It seems clear that Google does not seek to make money on the talents or property of the authors. Google Print provides a service, and the profits will be due to the service--not the work of the authors. The authors didn't create the service. Why do they insist on making money from the hard work of Google engineers? By the way, aren't websites copyrighted as well? Why are search engines able to provide text snippets from the website if it is copyrighted?
Posted by: Adam at November 3, 2005 08:47 AM

Google Print provides a service, and the profits will be due to the service--not the work of the authors. Adam, The only way for Google to provide this "service" as you call it is by scanning the authors' copyrighted intellectual properties. No content = no service. So I think that the authors should be entitled to something.
Posted by: Angelle at November 11, 2005 12:04 AM


i just read wsj.com news "Harper collins plans to control its digital books" (12/12/05) perhaps by charging $0.10 per page per view. i've read some other online commentary -- all web publisher product and blogs. i kept searching for discussion of (a) impact of AdSense sales/ print.google 'fair use' of author's IP; (b) harvesting existing dbases, e.g. ISBN, US copyright office, Lib. Congress freaking dewey decimal; or (c) channel cannibalism. some one pls show me the way -- if i can get 3 sentences for free that precisely fit my, er, limited research time -OR- jump to some advertiser's digest, why the hell would i go to a library or buy a book?
Posted by: Mary at December 12, 2005 11:51 AM

P.S. Adam, i can't imagine what you do for a living. i suspect you are a 'consumer', not a 'producer'. these are old-fashion labels, to be sure. nonetheless, think about how technology transforms the value of your work and the work of someone who invests TIME in an original work and why they do so. Andrew and Angelle make this point in different ways. it isn't always money or 'long-tail' obscurity that motivate an author. i fear, your respect for google engineers is misplaced. pity the algorithm or the dud(ette) with the OCR scanner earning $7/hr -- no options (?). google profits derive from diminishing marginal cost of reproducing all or part of someone else's work. also, pity the frailty of us copyright law. yes, even a website constitutes copyright of the author. but copyright is no guarantee; only price or litigation guarantees copyright. see US copyright law sect 107 in particular, if you have the time.
Posted by: Mary at December 12, 2005 12:17 PM

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