LJNDawson.com, Consulting to the Book Publishing Industry
Book Publishing Industry Consultant


Internetnews.comcarries a story that explains more fully what Google's interpretation of "fair use" actually is.

Jonathan Band [an IP lawyer and expert on digital content] said that search engines rely on the concept of implied license for their Web indexing, assuming that webmasters have posted information online because they want it to be found. He pointed out that Web masters could place exclusion headers in their site code, telling crawlers to keep off.

"By giving publishers the opportunity to opt-out of the Print Library Project, Google is replicating the exclusion feature of the Internet," he concluded.

Which makes perfect sense. Except what Google's talking about replicating is not already on the web - which is the whole point of Google Print. What Google's doing is creating that online information database in the first place, and THEN indexing it. The indexing part is fine. It's creating the vast pool of unlicensed data to crawl in the first place that's up for debate.

Electronic Frontier Foundationequates what Google is doing to creating a card catalog. Which, again, is PART of what Google is doing. The OTHER part of what Google is doing is copying books into digital format so that they can index keywords, subject matter, etc. It's that "copying books into digital format" part that's got publishers' and authors' panties in a twist.

Now, if the publishers and authors were already doing this, and posting that content online for Google to crawl, that'd be one thing. But that is not what's going on here.

Personally, I think the idea of a massive digital database of all the books Google can get hold of is a great idea. I love the idea of being able to locate books as well as journal articles, blogs, personal websites, what have you.

But I do find the opting-out-of-scanning to be a little disturbing. I understand that the entire book won't be posted online and nobody's going to lose out. But that little frisson of "we had to copy your work for our project and we couldn't find you easily to get permission so we just went ahead and did it - if you don't want that, let us know" to be a little...well, it assumes that the value of Google Print is worth more than the value of an author's individual copyright.

And that's not how we operate under copyright law.

If Google were to work with the
Library of Congress, for example, that might be a different story entirely. Because all books which are copyrighted must be on deposit with the Library of Congress. If Google were to strike a deal with LC, and work WITH them, then perhaps we wouldn't be in this little pickle now.
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