May 24, 2005 5:50 PM PDT

Publishers balk at Google book copy plan

Despite initial awe for Google's project to digitize and make library books searchable online, some publishers are now criticizing the plan, calling it a "broad-sweeping violation of the Copyright Act."

The Association of American University Presses, a 125-member nonprofit of scholarly publishers, made public this week a six-page letter sent to Google, whose Google Print for Libraries launched in December with the support of Harvard, Stanford and Michigan university libraries.

In the letter, the association posed a series of detailed questions to Google about the project and its scope, given that the company is making a copy of books still in copyright without explicit permission from each publisher, creating the potential for financial harm to its members.

"The fact is Google Print for Libraries appears to be built on a gigantic fair use claim, which we think is questionable at best," said Peter Givler, executive director of the Association of American University Presses. "If the fair use is not valid, it could be a gigantic copyright violation. There are fundamental questions about copyright that need to be answered."

Google representative Eileen Rodriguez said Tuesday that the company respects the rights of copyright holders and that Google Print "incorporates several ways to view books to protect copyright." Those include displaying only bibliographic information and a few short sentences of text for books still in copyright, she said.

"Although we believe there are many business advantages for publishers to participate in Google Print, they may opt out, and their books scanned in libraries will not be displayed to Google users," she said.

Despite that claim, Givler questions Google's right to digitize the entirety of copyrighted works in the first place, even if publishers can opt out after the fact. Fair use in the act of digitizing books has not been tested on such a massive scale, he said, and if a court would favor Google, then those rights would be granted to any search engine.

"They may all be nice guys and have wonderful plans, but there's something here we have to have a serious conversation about," Givler said, adding that the financial health of scholarly publishers is at stake.

Google's Rodriguez said that the company encourages all publishers to contact it directly with comments and questions.

Since its introduction, Google Print has caused great excitement and some aversion. The project recently put French President Jacques Chirac on the defensive, calling for a digital library project that preserves the authority of European languages in one archive. Five other European nations including Germany, Hungary, Italy and Spain eventually joined Chirac in asking for financial support from the European Union for the cause.

In addition, other publishers and the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers have written Google with concerns and questions about the print project.

One concern relates to a similar Google project called Google Print for Publishers, which allows authors to upload their works into the company's database for the opportunity to promote sales and generate ad revenue in its search engine. According to the association's letter, the group is unclear whether publisher sign-off for the Google Print for Publisher service grants the company rights for its library service.

"Publishers' contracts for Google Print are title-specific and can't be interpreted as a blanket license," according to the letter.

A second worry is about publishers' ability to "opt out" of the program. According to the letter, two publisher associations have contacted Google with copyright concerns that were not addressed properly. Also, there is no public information about opting out of the program on Google's Web site, according to the letter.

"Google Print for Libraries has wonderful potential, but that potential can only be realized if the program itself respects the rights of copyright owners," according to the letter.


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Make NO mistake...

Furthermore, do not forget that these same people were behind an attempt to get a Federal-Law passed to OUTLAW PHOTOCOPIERS in public-libraries, just a few short years ago. I originally watched this FIASCO rather closely, at that time, because I knew several, thoroughly-pissed, librarians when it was actually happening.

This is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what the PRIVILEGE of "Copyright Grant" was supposed to accomplish for the citizens of The United States of America.

This sort of thing, not only needs to be STOPPED-COLD, ...But, it is time to reverse this TRAVESTY.
Posted by Raife (63 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They are not the only ones...
A lot of companies have serious issues with the
notion of a public library, not just this
association. The MPAA and RIAA have been pushing
for several years now to prohibit libraries from
loaning music and movies. A number of publishers
of scientific and technical journals have also
expressed concern about loaning materials or
granting access to them without renumeration (to
their credit, there are other journals that are
staunchly in favor of it).

That said, it seems to me that it would be
prudent for Google to get a ruling on whether or
not their project is fair-use. I know there are
a lot of people that will claim it's clear-cut,
but copyright infringement is not treated like a
crime by the courts -- each individual case is
subject to review and the court has quite a bit
a flexibility. Were I Google's management
though, I think I'd like to know up front if
there might be legal complications down the line
before spending time and effort on it (at the
very least, if it is adjudicated infringement,
what could be done to make it a non-infringing

Personally, there have been academic analyses of
large bodies of text performed in the past that
were never considered infringement, even if
corporately supervised. I would think that
generating an index and even pulling out single
sentences or paragraphs from a book might still
be considered fair-use -- but it's really too
close to call.

I agree with the previous poster, however. I
have several friends who are/have been
librarians and they all perceive a really strong
push, by a large and well-heeled group of
puclishers, to do away with what we today know
as the public library system. The idea being
that libraries are a threat to the publisher's
profitability. Who's going to buy a book if you
check it out of the library, or even photocopy
it while you're there? Who's going to buy/rent a
video if you can just go to the library and
borrow a copy?

Why are publisher's so paranoid?
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Link Flag
Against what?
Why would someone be against digitization of books when it actually might increase the readership and the reach?
Posted by mercuryrising (60 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's all about $$$
Publishers don't care about readership, as long as they get their dirty little hands on $$$.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Link Flag
There is only one way this will end.
That is when all your data is belong to us! This isn't the first time I've said this. Where would we(humans) be if everyone with a great idea kept it to themselves and only divulged it for a fee. Think of Plato, Einstien, and Aristotle just to name a few. Long before the 19th and 20th century, people worked and researched to better the lives of not only themselves but of the rest of the world. Instead nowadays people are obssesed about how much profit they make and how fast they can make it, and damnation and death to anyone that would try to take away from that revenue stream.

I have a great idea. Let's privatize oxygen, and charge twenty-five cents for every breath a person takes, then when I've made enough money, I can pay someone to figure out what consitutes a breath or half a breath so I can charge more for half a breath and declare a sale on full breaths. I bet that will cut down on our over population issue, weed out all the broke people eh? Maybe I could sell some on ebay.... is anyone getting the point?

/Tired of watching the world 'shoot itself in the foot' on a daily basis.

//Can't do much about it either. Except b!tch. :)
Posted by (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
European Folly
While I'm always against one company having too much power (Microsoft, Clear Channel, etc., etc.), I think that France's attempts to go it alone, or even with a few other countries from Europe isn't the right move.

I think they ought to partner with the Google in their country so that they're not just represented, but represented at the same level as the libraries here in the US participating in the project.

And if Google could then work out some sort of financial partnership with the copyright holders, then it would be to the advantage of everyone involved, from Google to the publisher/author to searcher.

Like the oracle-type virtual libraries seen in movies like A.I.
Posted by TV James (680 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Copyright like Trademarks is about one thing...
Greedy companies getting greedier. Copyright law needs to be changed to favor consumers and not greedy businesses that like a vampire try to suck that last drop of live from consumers and intelectual works.

The law needs to be changed so that copyrights expire 10 years after they are enstated. At which time the work enters the public domain is available for all to use. This gives the copyright owner plenty of time to suck all of the money the are probably going to get out of it out of it.

I would even be willing to make an exception for movies, TV shows and Music since they do seem to have a longer true viable money making market. By extending their copyrights to 20 years.

However, until we the people that elect our politicians, and keep these business and this country going start demanding that they do what is best for us nothing will ever enter the public domain. At least not in our lifetimes, our childrends or our grandchildresn lifetimes. They only things that are in the public domain are things that are so old that they a worthless in modern times.

I mean outside of a few freaks who cares much about shakespire, or music from the old masters or silent black and white movies from 1910 or 1890? Not many.

Posted by (336 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google going a bit too far
I understand their ultimate goal, and think it's marginally admirable.

But scanning in an entire book is in no way, shape, nor form 'fair use'. It is blatant copyright violation.

All Google needs to do to make it all right is get permission BEFORE scanning a book.
Posted by (402 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Absolutely Ridiculous
Why is it always about the money? Reading and reading comprehension is boosted by, gee... READING. People buy books because they don't think it's practical to pull out a laptop while on a bus and start reading some book online. People buy books because they support the author. People go to the LIBRARY to get exposure and learn. With the state of education, especially in America, we should give people every chance they can get to expand their knowledge. Nobody reads anymore because there's almost no incentive -- video games, tv, movies, music, sports... vs sitting in one place reading. Making material more accessible will help alleviate this problem.
Posted by Karios Kasra (62 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why not?
It makes perfect sence to digitize the wealth of human literature for the benefit all humanity. Who would dispute this undeniable truth. The benefit that would cascade to all outweights virtually all other considerations. If the scholarly community as a whole feels economically threatened by this value added service Google is proposing I strongly suggest they re-examine the real reason they engaged scholarly pursuit to begin with.
Robert Bagnall, Thailand
Posted by (1 comment )
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