I'm a Human Inbox

Friday, September 30, 2005

Authors' Guild Sues Google for Scanning Books

[Media: Article]

There's a pretty interesting development between the Authors' Guild and Google concerning Google's initiative to scan in large amounts of books to create a book search engine. Normally the line between legal and illegal is pretty clear, but this is a case where I think the Authors' Guild is just flat out wrong, both in terms of common sense and legality.

The Guild claims that Google is making illegal copies of books, which technically is true. But this clearly is a fair use case because Google isn't offering these books to the public, nor making money directly off of the books, instead they are creating a search engine which will allow people to search for quotations. Also, the only time that these books will be downloadable is if the authors specifically allow this. Infact, if an Author doesn't want their book searchable, Google won't put it up there. If the Authors Guild wins this case, Internet Search Engines in general could be considered illegal. Could you imagine anyone with a webpage saying "I don't want Google searching my webpage!", of course nobody would say that.

A search engine for books will be revolutionary in its benefits. Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors than copyright infringement, or even outright piracy. While publishers invest in each of their books, they depend on bestsellers to keep afloat. They typically throw their products into the market to see what sticks and cease supporting what doesn't, so an author has had just one chance to reach readers. Until now.

The Authors Guild has been hypocritical because they've levied a class-action lawsuit against Google by all authors.

[T]he Authors' Guild has brought a class action suit on behalf of all writers who will be scanned by Google Print. That includes me, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Larry Lessig, and innumerable other authors who think that the AG is full of crap. In other words, the AG believes that Google shouldn't be allowed to opt writers in to its Google Print program (which will make money for writers and sell more books), but they believe that they should be able to opt writers into their costly, suicidal lawsuit against Google, which, if they are victorious, will reduce sales and take money out of writers' pockets.

Again, I feel this is an example of people who clearly have very little understanding of how the Internet or their customers work. They see this as a threat instead of understanding what wonderful advantages this technology will bring to the literary world.