Re: Google Accused of Copyright Infringement Fwd:

Subject: Re: Google Accused of Copyright Infringement Fwd:
From: Richard Wentk (
Date: Wed Sep 21 2005 - 12:36:41 EDT

At 15:01 21/09/2005, you wrote:
>At 02:24 PM 9/21/05 +0100, Richard Wentk wrote:
> >At 02:37 21/09/2005, you wrote:
> >>>Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2005 21:26:51 -0400
> >>>From: Harold Isaac <>
> >>>Subject: Google Accused of Copyright Infringement
> >>>
> >>>Check out this article:
> >>>
> >
> >Isn't this called File Sharing when it's done to music?
>Sort of. :)
>I really believe that the narrow view of copyright and commerce can be a
>bad thing. Set aside for the moment the idea of both techical rights and
>free-market theocracy, and think instead of libraries and the social place
>they have earned over the years (even if the Internet seems to have dimmed
>that place in recent times). They are always granted a special
>consideration, and partnering with a commercial organization should not
>automatically taint that consideration.

In the UK there's a scheme called PLR which guarantees that authors are
paid something for library loans.

They're not paid a lot - the most I ever got was 800, and the really big
names are capped to a few thousand - but it is a sort of token recognition
that library loans aren't really free, and that authors should be
recompensed. So it's not really accurate to suggest that libraries have a
special place free of access charges. This certainly isn't true of academic
journals, which make most of their income from library payments, nor of
mainstream dictionaries like the OED or even Grove, both of which charge
significant sums for online access.

The other point here is that academic libraries aren't open to the public
anyway. If I want to visit the Bodleian, which is my nearest large academic
library, as a non-academic I need to make a persuasive case for being
allowed access, preferably with some kind of academic or professional
sponsorship. I can't just walk in off the street.

With that background two things bother me about the Google initiative. The
first is that Google unilaterally decided to start digitising books that
are still under copyright without discussing this with the copyright
holders. Whatever the politics, legally and ethically this is indefensible.
It would be acceptable - in fact it would be especially interesting - for
historical texts that were out of copyright. But ignoring legal rights of
authors today seems to me to be high handed and monopolistic - the kind of
behaviour we'd expect from Microsoft.

Secondly the justification seems to be that only *parts* of the texts will
be available online. If so - what's the point? If Google is setting itself
up as an academic alternative to Amazon, it should say so. Otherwise this
looks suspiciously like an 'Oops, now we've been caught red handed, we have
to justify ourselves somehow' kind of corporate rationalisation.

>Google's work with libraries to digitize material into a great,
>indestructible library of bits is a contribution to the cataloging and
>preservation of and access to creative work ... not only for its simple
>preservation and storage, but for its indexing/database capabilities, for
>its ability to snapshot a collection, and not least for its precedent in
>pressuring publishers to move forward in their own sluggish move toward
>maintaining their catalogs. Publishers are notorious in removing books from
>the active list or even destroying them en masse for a few pennies in tax

This is true, but will Google be any better? And will authors be any better
off? Wouldn't it better for authors - and more likely to encourage future
creative effort - to continue to make a work available in electronic form
for a small fee even after paper copies have disappeared?

I like your idea, but I think it's speculation. I don't see any evidence
that this is the real motivation here, or even that it figures in the game

>Remember At its height, this was the greatest single repository of
>musical content in the history of humanity -- and it was sold, dismantled,
>and destroyed in the stroke of a pen (virtual or not), resulting in a
>musical diaspora.

And this is not a bad thing, because financially MP3.COM was a rip off of
monumental proportions. Millions of musicians contributed their creative
efforts mostly so that Michael Roberts could get extremely rich. A tiny
handful made some money off pay-for-play - I think I made $30 altogether :)
- but many of the top rankers got there by playing the system with fake

Meanwhile there was no sharing of ad revenue. And the licensing agreement
was far harsher than anything even a conventional major label could dream
up, in that MP3.COM more or less reserved the rights to do anything with
uploaded music, and guaranteed no income to the artist in return.

It was the world's biggest musical vanity publishing site, and as such it
was a huge success. What it wasn't was a by-artists, for-artists kind of

>Lawsuits are easy. Complaining is easy. But imagining a project of this
>size into existence, and then carrying through with enormous investment,
>seems to me to place an obligation on the complainers to show what is wrong
>on balance, not on technical detail.

See above...


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