Re: Google Accused of Copyright Infringement Fwd:


Subject: Re: Google Accused of Copyright Infringement Fwd:
From: Dennis Bathory-Kitsz (bathory@maltedmedia.com)
Date: Wed Sep 21 2005 - 14:10:52 EDT


At 05:36 PM 9/21/05 +0100, Richard Wentk wrote:
>In the UK there's a scheme called PLR which guarantees that authors are
>paid something for library loans.

The US system of the 'Free Public Library' is a tradition I strongly
support. The free public library, sometimes privately held (such as the New
York Public, which may even still be), brought an enormous educational
resource to the citizenry, one which in short order defined one of the
differences between the colonies and their former masters. :)

>The other point here is that academic libraries aren't open to the public
[...]
>I can't just walk in off the street.

I can. I'm not sure of general practice as I'm not seen in academia all
that often, but I've never had trouble. All I do is turn in my driver's
license or other permanent ID at the front desk (I recall having to prove I
had no blades with me once). Special collections require an appointment,
but that's also true in free public libraries.

>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's defensible. US libraries have many options in the archiving of
materials, some in law and some in traditional practice. The current law in
part springs from that library tradition (See
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode17/usc_sec_17_00000108----000-.
html or if that wraps, http://tinyurl.com/b2yfp).

>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.

If you're looking for that. Hey, if someone's going to do my archiving and
preservation work for me (especially, considering that the government
encourages public-corporate partnering, very likely within within
USC17.108), then have at it! And I'll happily sit on the other side of the
room from those copyright holders -- folks who prefer sniffing at some
technical infractions which will in all likelihood bring them historical
benefit instead of pitching in and helping the project work, maybe even
picking up some Google stock along the way.

Furthermore, the execrable changes to the law put those out-of-copyright
materials way back in the past, and it's the present that's crumbling. For
those who object, I say, let their works rot.

>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.

The real (and hidden) objection seems to be that Google thought of *and*
acted on it first and some authors (whose other sources of royalties
already ran out) got their knickers in a twist. The smell of money, too.

>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?

Sure, there are all sorts of "better" options. So where are those
better-option people with their millions of dollars of investment at risk?
Is Dr. Joseph Author going to contribute to the pool of venture capital to
help the rest of the community preserve and catalog their work? Not likely.
"Ooooo, you guys do all the work and make all the investment and do what I
never thought to do and would have bothered with anyway and that my
publisher utterly failed to accomplish and when it's all done give ME the
money!"

>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
>plan.

Short of it being evil, I care about neither motivation nor process. I care
about results. If Google were to move to put up a huge access gate, then
the delicate facade all falls down and they can get their capitalist wrist
(my wife would use another word) whacked in court. In the meantime, this
drooling lawyer-hiring authors' cabal might have instead drawn up a
forward-looking and imaginative (they're the creative ones, right?)
agreement together with a financing mechanism for authors whose works are
being preserved, and presented that agreement to the libraries involved.

I frankly cannot abide the mentality of all these copyright silverfish
willing to have their paper eaten up rather than applaud such a
preservation initiative and actually *become an active part of it*.

And it's not like I don't have a lifelong investment in my creative work.
I've seen a half-dozen books and nearly a thousand articles published in
addition to my 700 or so compositions. But I can still accept a good idea
being acted upon by a company that, to date, has actually provided a very
high level of service for which they had no guarantee of reward. You gotta
respect that.

>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 :)

And I made close to $1,000 -- at the time, significantly more than the
*rest* of the musical community had ante'd up for my music. But I don't
know why you focused on Robertson getting rich. He's welcome to it. He was
the guy with the vision and the drive and the investment savvy, and nobody
was coerced to be a part of MP3.com. Did you buy stock when it went public?
Participating artists were offered that opportunity ahead of the general
public -- and this was before the dot-com collapse -- when the stock rose
enormously in value over the next few days.

For me, the point is that the "monumental" part of MP3.com was the size and
breadth of its archive, and how personal contacts could be made through it,
and the sense of broad community that had not previously existed. Yes, as
the dot-com collapse neared MP3.com got commercial and was trying to boost
ad revenue to compensate for the (entirely voluntary) pay-for-play program
it had initiated. There was no recovering from it.

But at no time in the history of the human race was so much music gathered
in one place. And the artists had risked nothing in this venture save some
time! It ws breathtaking! So why the focus on Robertson, who built it? Why
not on those who bought and killed it?

>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
>project.

Actually, it was. I don't know how early you were involved, but Robertson
was personally answering email when it started and for quite a while into
it (just as Marc Cuban did when he founded AudioNet before it morphed into
Broadcast.com -- he hosted Kalvos & Damian's first streaming space, taking
our DATs by postal mail and converting them). And the MP3.com pages and
content were all created by artists, with Roberts providing a framework
that had no guarantee of success whatsoever. Vanity? You bet -- but also a
fairly representative free-market experiment where visibility was traded
for effort. Interesting artists got lots of downloads and lots of payback.
I didn't mind banking mine. So call me an avaricious electroacoustic slut. :)

As for artists doing this sort of thing, please show me one of those that
ever worked on even a modest scale -- in the small millions of dollars, say.

Dennis



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