Thursday, October 06, 2005

More on the Google Print Copyright Controversy

In the Oct. 2 edition of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, Peter Suber tackles the recent lawsuit launched against the Google Print library digitization project by the U.S.-based Authors Guild.

This is a follow-up to the post "Authors Sue Google Over Digitization Project" from Sept. 23.

Suber summarizes the arguments of both camps very well.

In the case of the Guild:

"(1) Google's opt-out policy for publishers reverses the usual burden on those who want to copy material under copyright... (2) Even though Google plans to display only snippets of copyrighted books, it will display a snippet for every search. Systematic searchers could patch together significant portions of a book. (3) To index the text and produce snippets, Google will have to copy the full-text. Fair use is traditionally limited to much smaller excerpts. (4) Google will profit from its copying and indexing... This is a commercial use."

And Google's possible counter-arguments:

"(1) Google indexing will help sell books... It goes directly to the statutory test of fair use, one of whose elements is "the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work" (17 USC 107). (2) ...It's true that different fair-use snippets could be patched together, but that's true of every kind of fair use. If users really wanted free access to full-text, it would be much easier to visit a public library than to find and assemble all the right snippets.(3) ... every ISP makes full-text copies without prior permission when passing along browser requests, and every browser makes full-text copies without prior permission when displaying a page of an online document... (4) Opt-out is the accepted standard for indexing web content ... opt-out search crawling is allowed even for copyrighted content. (5) The four arguments above are reasons to think that the Google Library copying is protected as fair use... If the copying is fair use, then no prior permission is needed. If no prior permission is needed, then opt-out is perfectly acceptable. (6) It's true that Google will profit from its copying... Morever, selling ads next to fair-use snippets is very different from selling copies of the texts themselves, something Google has no intention of doing. Journals and magazines may quote fair-use snippets and sell ads on the same pages without violating the law."

While the article is fairly balanced, overall Suber is more supportive of Google, with some reservations, and he finds many of the Guild's arguments "deceptive".

One great component of the article: the links to dozens of legal analyses and comments on the case, from pro- and anti-Google perspectives.

As well, Suber reports that the Authors Guild tried unsuccessfully to stop Amazon from selling used books in 2000 and then again in 2002 and protested against Amazon's Search Inside the Book service in 2003. Suber implies the Guild is very old-school and "maximalist" when it comes to owners' rights.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:07 pm


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