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Google’s Book Program Hits Legal Snag

Posted on Sep 19, 2009

Google argues that its program would give users unprecedented access to out-of-print books.

Whoever said that information wants to be free never met the U.S. Justice Department. Citing copyright and antitrust issues, the department has urged a New York court to reject an agreement that would let Google publish a treasure trove of books online.  —J.C.

The BBC:

The US Justice Department has urged a New York court to reject a deal that would allow internet company Google to publish millions of books online.

The deal raised copyright and anti-trust issues, the department said, and should be rejected in its current form.

The court is due to rule on the issue early next month.

Under the deal - the product of a legal suit - Google would establish a $125m (£77m) fund to compensate those whose works it published online.

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By Louise, September 21, 2009 at 7:35 am Link to this comment

Ray Duray,

“As far as your concern about rewards for the creators of intellectual property, there’s compelling evidence that in many instances offering samples of work for free on the Internet actually boosts sales.”


Agreed, that’s why it’s such a great marketing tool.

But there’s a huge difference between previewing samples which lead to sales, and the whole thing offered for nothing, which could, and probably would eliminate sales in other markets.

I have no problem with google marketing books, but they have to do it in a way that is fair to the competition, offers actual value to the consumer, and protects the rights of the author and publisher. I think when someone buys a book it’s because they want to curl up with a good book. Being able to eliminate the need to purchase a hard copy tells me this is actually directed more at those who don’t want to bother with the whole book, but want to be able to cheery-pick out various parts, for whatever reason. Folks can and should go to the Library to do their research.

There is a reason why copyright laws were created. And this is about as good an opportunity for folks to understand that reason as I can think of. Anyone can pick up a book from the Library, or borrow a book from a friend, but that book had to be purchased first, and in the purchase the requirements of copyright law were fulfilled. There is no way once that material is made available to millions, without any copyright controls, that the publishing industry and the authors who created that book in the first place wont be cut out of the loop. And that’s not only not fair. It’s not legal!

As to google. In their efforts to anticipate our needs, they have created a monumental mess that takes the consumer on a circuitous route that not only doesn’t get them where they want to go, unless they have all day to try and get there, but often takes them to a dead-end. Which requires they start all over again. Which if the object is to expose the searcher to as much for profit as is possible, is good for google, but a real pain in the arse for someone looking for something. It has become quicker and easier to plow through the Yellow Pages. Computer programs, no matter how good they are can’t think.

I have no-one but myself to blame. I got in the habit of the quick and easy google search. So I suppose what I need to do is start keeping track of specific sites that answer my queries and limit google searches to things like news articles and history references. And for that I admit they are good.

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By Ray Duray, September 20, 2009 at 9:16 am Link to this comment

Hi Louise,

Re: “Is there an alternative to google? Anyone know?”

There are alternatives to all services Google offers.

It’s a funny question, it seems to me. Because Google is so many things…

Search engine, dictionary, browser, email client, map service, translation service, soon to be operating system…. and I’m just scratching the surface.

As far as your concern about rewards for the creators of intellectual property, there’s compelling evidence that in many instances offering samples of work for free on the Internet actually boosts sales. Witness the willingness of Amazon to offer a “Look Inside” glimpse of the first pages, TOCs and indexes to many books. And in the music industry a number of up-and-coming bands use Facebook, etc. to give away tunes that eventually lead to paid downloads or CD sales.

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By Louise, September 20, 2009 at 8:56 am Link to this comment

Usual Obama bashers trying to link something they think is bad to Obama, [yawn]

But there is always an exception to ignorance.

Thanks Rodger Lemonde,
“This is not a case of information wanting to be free. It is a case of Google wanting it to be free for them to profit from.”

I agree with you. If everything an artist created or a writer wrote was available for free, the artists and the writers would quit creating and find some other way to support themselves. And we would be left with nothing to read but endless “me too” postings on endless blogs, and no art save computer generated whatevers.

In this case, the corporate greed is not in the government or the justice department, it’s right there on GOOGLE. Which by the way has become so plugged up with reference sites, it’s getting harder and harder to actually find information!

Is there an alternative to google? Anyone know?

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By marcus medler, September 19, 2009 at 10:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Google is looking for risk free money and
exercise of monopoly using a massive
accumulation of public wealth. The books in
public domain belong to the universe and have
been housed for the most part by public
dollars. Many publishers specialize in public
domain reprinting, but none have the de facto
monopoly of Google. Google should be made a
nonprofit public institution, either an extension
of the post office or interstate highway system.
It too will be too big to fail and the majority of
people will be slaves to massive private wealth.
This sort of concentration was what did in the
communist states. Or, have them compete with
other publishers like Harpers, Random House
and so many others that actually take risks and
bring to the public new works and pay authors.
That is how concentrated wealth is useful for
the society.

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By Rodger Lemonde, September 19, 2009 at 5:54 pm Link to this comment

This is not a case of information wanting to be free.
It is a case of Google wanting it to be free for them
to profit from. Copyright is a protection of
intellectual property That makes it possible for
those who create intellectual property to make a
living from that effort. More importantly it protects
creators from having their work stolen by others for
profit. It also makes the rights to works a heritable
I am an artist and ardent defender of copyrights.
Having the best burglar tools does not make theft any
less a crime.
Information has always been a negotiable commodity.
The more it is needed the more it costs. Google sells
information 24/7 and it is information about you that
they got for a few milliseconds of computation time
with every search you do or mail you send or receive.
Try to get that information from them. Want a bet
they have a rate card?

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By Thomas Dooley, September 19, 2009 at 1:56 pm Link to this comment

Who said information wants to be free? Well, I forget actually. However, we do know who wants to lock it up. Corporate copyright holders. And they are having the U.S. Justice Department do it for them.

Say, why is the Obama Administration Justice Department working for private corporate interests? Don’t those corporations have their own lawyers? The lawyers at the Justice Department are on the public payroll. Shouldn’t they be working in the interest of, you know, the public? Yeah, right! Change. Sure, sure. Hope and change. Well I guess we can hope all we want.

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, September 19, 2009 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We don’t need no stinkin book learnin in amerca.  The
internets is for tweetin.

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By Ray Duray, September 19, 2009 at 11:43 am Link to this comment

Of course our government wants to suppress books. This is our great heritage of Western Civilization!

From Wikipedia:

“In the 10th century, the (Muslim) city of Cordoba had 700 mosques, 60,000 palaces, and 70 libraries, the largest of which had up to 600,000 books. In comparison, the largest library in Christian Europe at the time had no more than 400 manuscripts…”

In his book “Mirrors”, Eduardo Galeano makes a similar comparison. At about the time that Columbus discovered America, the King of Portugual had about 6 books in his library, the Caliph of Baghdad had about 400,000 books on mathematics, science and philosophy collected from every corner of the Orient. The King’s books consisted mostly of collections of treasure maps.

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By Dee, September 19, 2009 at 11:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

That’s disappointing.  I frequently use Google Books for my medical research, because they have a lot of old books from the 1800s I can’t find anywhere.

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