Monday, December 12, 2005

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, 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 users, regardless of these authors' AdSense or AdWords affiliation.

To illustrate, following is commentary to 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 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/ '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

print.googlePmCC SCORE:0.0

Friday, December 09, 2005

wsj wants to know 1.2

Wsj "Question of The Day" [poll 3712], How important should social concerns be to a company?

As of 12/9/05, responses to the question, removed from the virtual masthead, totaled 1937. The distribution was 664 [very important], 834 [somewhat important], 435 [not important]. The editors amended their introduction of the prompt context to the panelists’ lengthy debate (recorded elsewhere) by summarizing the argument of each in lieu of summarizing the c.v. of each.

Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr., senior vice president for law and public affairs at General Electric. He says, "Societies must develop institutional infrastructure, not just economic infrastructure, that will allow investment, growth, rule of law, and a meaningful balance between equity and efficiency. That is a task far beyond the capabilities or proper mission of corporations."

Ilyse Hogue, director of the global finance campaign for Rainforest Action Network. She says, "Arguing against responsibility is a sign of failed imagination...People are desperate for a definition of wealth that expands to centralize the health of individuals and communities."

Fred L. Smith, Jr., president and founder of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market public policy group, and former senior policy analyst for the Environmental Protection Agency. He says, "The firm is a civilizing influence on society -- but its primary and most important role should not be sacrificed to utopian dreams."

This editorial strategem keeps wsj forum chat on virtual life support. At this time, reported 44 approved comments or 2% of total respsonses, up from 31 as of midday, 12/6/05. Following are short-hand empirical references to my earlier observation.

From: Guest Dec-6 12:48 pm
To: Editors Poll (23 of 44) 3721.23 in reply to 3721.1

Businesses are successful, that is they are profitable, only when they provide goods and services that people need or want. If they are providing goods or services that people need and want at fair market prices, then by design they care about social concerns. Additionally, and this should be obvious, a business can only be successful if human beings exist who can buy, design, and make these products. So the logical conclusion is that all businesses must care about the well-being of its customers, employees, suppliers, etc. If capitalism works, then corporations that do not place a high degree of importance on social concerns should not survive. If we find that many corporations without social concerns are surviving and thriving, then we should ask why.

When people try to hide their actions from others, it is usually because the know they are doing something that they already know is wrong. Corporations that behave in socially and environmentally destructive ways also try to hide their actions from the public because they already know it is wrong.

Further, I think that a corporation actually has more of a responsibility to do what is best for long-term growth and wealth for its shareholders more than it has an obligation to create quick short-term wealth for its shareholders. With a view on the long run, any corporation will see that it is in the interest of all of its stakeholders for it be occupied with social concerns. Besides, shareholders are not an abstract idea. They are people who live in communities, buy products, have jobs, have families, want to be healthy,etc.

Placing a high importance on social concerns does not mean a corporation should give all of its profits away to charity. It means creating value without exploiting employees and consumers, and without dumping the environmental and social costs of production onto those communities who are least represented by the market, i.e. the poor. It also means other things, but you get the point.

Milton Friedman stated that while the social responsibility of a corporation is to increase its profits, it must do so in a manner consistent with the laws and customs of society. What do we want our customs to be?
Bill Conway
Philadelphia, PA

From: Donald Johnson Dec-6 2:36 pm
To: James Potter Poll (26 of 44) 3721.26 in reply to 3721.25

Minimizing domestic abuse certainly is important, but no business that isn't in the business of reducing domestic abuse should be distracted by domestic abuse or any other social issues. Dometic abuse should be the business of the police, health care providers, churches, non profit organizations and various governmental agencies. Corporations shouldn't even contribute to the nonprofits involved in this or other issues, and they shouldn't let United Way harrass employees for contributions.

Instead, domestic abuse services and agencies must depend on taxpayers and contributors to support them, not employers. If employers are allowed to be the best in their businesses and aren't distracted by the hundreds of nonprofits that think they deserve corporate support, both the employers and the agencies will be better off.

From: James Potter Dec-7 12:05 pm
To: Donald Johnson unread Poll (44 of 44) 3721.44 in reply to 3721.26

Perhaps I did not make myself clear on this point. I'm not suggesting that businesses subplant government and private agencies in combating social ills such as child abuse, domestic violence, and drug abuse. I'm saying companies should take a greater role in becoming more aware of these so-called silent crimes and, hence learn how such criminal acts directly and indirectly affect their employees and corporate profitablility. A long time ago, I learned in business that if you ignore a problem without addressing it head-on, you'll generally pay an unppleasantly high price. The same principal applies to addressing and trying to prevent social ills in society. In my opinion, anyone who thinks otherwise, is being fairly naive.


From: Donald Johnson Dec-6 2:19 pm
To: Editors Poll (33 of 44) 3721.33 in reply to 3721.2

Fred Smith's comments should be read by every member of a corporate board and top executives and managers in all organizations as well as by politicians and trial lawyers.

His message that creating wealth raises living standards, encourages education, improves health and nutrition and creates middle classes needs to be drilled into the heads of social idealists, corporate leadrs and the politicans.

Ben Heineman apparently has had tremendous influence on GE and its CEO, who appears to be bent on regulating GE's customers into buying their energy-related products and services. No wonder the company's stock is stuck in a narrow trading range. It's so busy satisfying the egoes of its top executives that it's not paying attention to its bottom line—short term nor long term. GE sells to utilities and other large organizations. We can only hope that their executives read this "debate" and tell GE to knock it off, which it will do if there is a big enough backlash.

Ilyse Hogue is what she posts—a narrow-minded, idealistic and power-hungry lobbyist who doesn't care how the cause that is making her career will hurt so many more people than it will help. Read her comments three times and you'll realize she has little of consequence to say.

What should all business executives and owners do, regardless of the size and power of their enterprises?

1. Recruit smart, honest and strong directors for their boards, and make sure that those boards hire executives who reflect their values and strengths.

2. Follow GE's example of both obeying the spirt and letters of the law and requiring that their employees and suppliers do likewise. Treat customers, suppliers and neighbors like you treat your employees and shareholders.

3. Operate the business to make satisfactory profits that are generally acceptable (a judgment call) to all involved in the business, not maximum profits that attract competitors, political predators and the ultimate destruction of their enterprises.

4. Avoid getting sucked into contributing to charities that support higher taxes so you'll contribute more to get bigger tax deductions, academics who produce misleading scientific reports on global waming and other topics in an effort to generate new research grants, the performing arts whose practitioners think the markets don't apply to them and religious and social issues advocates who want to tell us what to believe and how to live.

5. Make your organization as open and transparent as possible, because there are no secrets worth keeping in organizations that can't execute their plans (Sears and Montgomery Wards) and secrecy only breeds rumors, suspicion, conspiracy theories and political predators.

6. Refuse to lobby for laws and regulations that give your organization a competitive advantage and harm society, your employees, your shareholders, your contributors and your customers. Oppose laws that favor your industry and company over customers and competitors. (I know, large companies around the world use their legislators to regulate competitors out of business and to protect themselves from disruptive technologies and changes in their markets. Just because everybody does it doesn't make it ethical.) Bribing politicians with campaign contributions is as wrong as bribing them with paper sacks full of cash. What's GE's record on campaign contributions?

7. Remember, without integrity at all levels, you have nothing, including no self respect.

From: Guest Dec-6 3:42 pm
To: Guest unread Poll (31 of 44) 3721.31 in reply to 3721.20

Louise: Your leftie agenda was tried in communist Russia and guess what, it did not work. There is no country in the world that has become great or will become great if its economy is controlled by its government.

Corporations exist solely to make profit for their owners; its the owners risk and the owners reward. This simple, greed based concept results in an economic engine which creates the wealth of nations. By the way in the American economy most of the owners are the citizens at large and they are known as stockholders. Any of them can share in the success, know as profits, of the company through ownership, and in some cases have done very well. Have you heard of the number of millionaire employees at Microsoft?

I feel sorry for anyone who believes they must depend on the government to succeed in life.
Lynn Hoover

From: Guest Dec-5 11:51 pm
To: Editors Poll (5 of 44) 3721.5 in reply to 3721.1

Corporation should not be allowed to do anything except make money. Political, religious, and charity decisions can be made by the individual shareholders. How can we trust corporations to be civic, moral, ethical, or righteous?
Louise Jones
New York, NY

From: Guest Dec-7 6:33 am
To: Guest unread Poll (41 of 44) 3721.41 in reply to 3721.5

Ah, but my dear you are missing the point. Corporations ARE made up of shareholders, management, workers. All individuals. Those at the top - the people - are the one's who can't be trusted. Money begets power, under capitalism, and power translates to corruption in far too many instances.

So I say YES, it is righteously incumbent upon The Company to be beholden to have a social conscience built into it's mission statement, there should be profit sharing amongst every worker not just those at the top of the food chain. Additionally, major corporations such as pharmaceuticals and insurance companies should be made to share their profits, publically.

That's all for now.
Louise Friedman

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

WSJ wants to know

In the interest of regulating public opinions, the editors of The Wall Street Journal solicited its audience for responses to the question:
How important should social concerns be to a company? automatically reported as of 12/6/05, 12:31pm, 1006 responses. The distribution of available choices was 346 [very important], 431 [somewhat important], 229 [not important]. The event also includes commentary posted by registered poll participants and approved by editorial staff.

This writer's response: somewhat important
This writer's post:
This prompt cleverly veils a normative reality, that is, a company’s status in the context of society. In the US, at least, and in the interest of social (or legal) “justice”, a company is “a person” not many people. To suggest what “a company” should or should not do is, on the one hand, to affirm individual ethics and obligations in the context of society and, on the other, belie abuses of anonymity only “a company” may enjoy by virtue of heterogenous institutional operations and “responsibilities”, if not their sheer scope . Sirs, the discretion of the one ill fits abstraction of the many.

Apparently stymied by your prompt to compare apples to oranges, voters have replied in kind. Electing ideas such as public welfare, externalities, ownership, morality, and political integrity (perhaps ignominy!) helps to unpack just what “social concerns” may inform business processes or business managers. They do not point to an agent. Rather these ideas self-consciously enjoin various imperatives to exculpate the many individuals who actualize a business’ identity, as if they are the company per se and, further, represent one mind. The assumption that employees and a diversified (or not) community of stockholders qualify corporate governance viz. “social concerns” is a practical error that need not be encouraged by the editors. The DOJ doesn’t buy academic discourse. Why should I? poll 3721PmCC SCORE:0.38