Re: Google Accused of Copyright Infringement (continued)

Subject: Re: Google Accused of Copyright Infringement (continued)
From: Dennis Bathory-Kitsz (
Date: Thu Sep 22 2005 - 08:32:03 EDT

This appeared this morning on Wired:

Let Google Copy!
By Wired News

Story location:,1283,68939,00.html

02:00 AM Sep. 22, 2005 PT

Google's book war with copyright holders is coming to a head with a lawsuit
this week from the Writers Guild of America. The courts should take this
opportunity to loosen unnecessary restrictions that are limiting innovation
with no clear benefit to the public or rights holders.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, Google stands charged with illegally copying
protected works for a commercial purpose without first obtaining the
permission of the copyright holders.

The suit hands the courts a chance to revisit a long-standing principle of
copyright law that's increasingly come under pressure thanks to digital
technologies. They can either update copyright law for the better, or side
with tradition and hold back innovations that would benefit thousands of
writers and millions of readers by rescuing books from obscurity.

Google has deals with academic libraries at Stanford, Harvard, Oxford and
the University of Michigan as well as the New York Public Library to
digitize major portions of their collections and put them in a searchable
database that's accessible over the internet. Google has not sought
permission from copyright holders in advance to do this, but offers anyone
affected who so wishes the chance to opt out of the program.

Google argues that it strictly limits how much of any given book it will
show to consumers and thus meets copying exemptions provided under the
fair-use doctrine, among others.

But Google is copying entire works without permission in order to place
books in its database in the first place. And it plans to make money by
selling ads. That combination that could get Google in trouble.

Courts in the past have been disappointingly strict when it comes to cases
involving commercial use of copies without permission, even in cases where
companies have made extraordinary efforts to preserve the rights of
copyright holders where they presumably count the most -- in the
marketplace, where consumers access and use copyright works., for example, was found liable in 2000 for infringing Universal
Music Group's copyrights with its short-lived digital locker
service. It ultimately settled the case for $54.8 million, pushing its
total legal tab for the experiment well north of $100 million, including
settlements and licensing deals with other record labels.
allowed owners of CDs to access their music online without having to go
through the expense and hassle of ripping and hosting the files themselves.
It copied the works without permission from copyright holders, but required
its customers to provide proof of ownership before granting access to a
requested track.

"Copyright is not designed to afford consumer protection or convenience
but, rather, to protect the copyright holders' property interests," U.S.
District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff wrote at the time in UMG Recordings Inc.

Google, too, could be deemed an infringer simply because it copied books
without permission, regardless of what it does to comply with copyright law
when it comes to using the information.

We believe this would be a mistake.

There are fundamental differences between copying analog works into a
digital format for the purposes of piracy, and copying the same works to
create a service that conforms to copyright laws in making that data
available to the public.

What happens on the backend should be of little or no interest to copyright
holders, so long as rights are respected on the front end, where control
over a work really counts.

If courts refuse to recognize this distinction, Congress should authorize a
limited compulsory license to allow unilateral digitization of works for
inclusion in a commercial database, provided, of course, that the database
doesn't strip content creators of their ability to profit from their
efforts. This will help clear the way for valuable new services, and close
the books on an overly restrictive interpretation of copyright law.

End of story

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