Monday, June 19, 2006

Debating the Google Library Lawsuit

Today's Wall Street Journal offers some insight into two opposing views of the lawsuit filed by book publishers against Google over its Library project, under which the search king will digitize millions of books (both in and out of copyright). No link to the story ("Debating the Google Suit") which is available only to subscribers.

The publishers' complaint:
  • Google is copying entire copyrighted books to provide "snippets" for its searchers
  • Providing snippets is a "crippled" approach to access and publishers have a better idea
  • Google is providing a digital copy of the book to the library--publishers want to charge libraries for that
  • Google isn't paying copyright owners anything
  • Google isn't asking permission

A Stanford law professor defends Google's approach:
  • If permission is necessary, that would block content from becoming accessible on the Net
  • If the law recognizes that kind of veto power, that will chill innovation
  • The scanning and access is minimal--just a snippet not a full page--which is protected under fair use
  • Fair use has been about the right to make a profit, which is what Google wants
  • The snippet is not a substitute for the original book

Publishers feel Google is horning in on their territory and restricting their own profits with their actions. They want total control of their books. If I had to make a prediction (I love making predictions), I would say that the courts will decide that there is room for both Google and the publishers. Forget any total victory for one side on this; both will get something, but not everything they want.

Of course, the two sides could always settle with an agreement between themselves that they can both live with. This avenue should have been thoroughly explored before the lawsuit.

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1 comment:

T Scott said...

I'm hoping that the two sides don't come to a settlement. The case raises some pretty profound issues about copyright in the digital age, and we need the case to get to make its way through the courts in order to have some the parameters established.