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

Google Print: Bandit or Robin Hood?

Lawrence Lessig, the founder of the Creative Commons movement, chimes in not a moment too soon on the Google debate. In the Sydney Morning Herald:

Professor Lessig makes the point that if Google Print is illegal, so is Google
itself. Google is simply indexing and organising text, which is what any library
does. The fact that it is using the internet to do so is irrelevant - it just
makes it easier to do what any visitor to a physical library does. All that's
changed is the technology, which means the old ways need to be re-examined.

The article largely covers Tim O'Reilly's stance on copyright and piracy (wherein O'Reilly says, wisely, "Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy"). But this is an interesting thought and one we've been advocating for quite some time - yes, Google Print is a violation of copyright law. AbsolutelyBut does that mean the project should not go forward? Not necessarily. Digitizing the text of every book you can get your hands on and putting it in a search database is of course a very useful thing. But when technology bumps up against deep legal tradition, interesting things happen. And frequently the law gets changed.

InfoToday reports that Microsoft is getting in on the book-digitization act (of course) starting with public-domain works. (Now THERE'S a risk - how many different iterations of Jane Eyre are out on the web? By my count, there are at least 6 on the first two pages of a Google search. How many do we NEED?)
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