(Chuck Muth) – I think it’s fair to say that Seton Motley of Less Government is not a big fan of the “Googlization” of the world.
“So infamous is Google’s Internet search engine,” Seton recently wrote with distress, “it has achieved Kleenex-esque near-name-ubiquity.”
Not being the wordsmith Seton is, I wasn’t quite sure what “ubiquity” meant. So I googled it.
Turns out it means “the state of being everywhere all the time.”
And when it comes to the searching the ‘net, I think we can all agree that’s pretty much true.
But it’s not just Google’s dominance of Internet “search” that Seton laments.
His distress extends to “Google Alerts, Google Finance, Google Groups, Google Hotel Finder, Google Flight Search, Google Image Search, Google Language Tools, Google News, Google Calendar, Google Patent Search, Google Recipe View, Google Scholar, Google Shopping and Google Video.”
And Google Books.
Now, this is the one that really caught my attention because Seton added this qualifier: “…where you can search about three million books – many of them for which Google never paid anyone.”
Holy pick-pockets, Batman!
Seconding Seton’s emotion in this regard was a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed penned by Author’s Guild president Margaret Atwood titled, “How Google Stole the Work of Millions of Authors.”
In the op-ed, Atwood claims that…
“In 2004 Google sent its moving vans to the libraries and carted off some 20 million books. It copied them all, including books in copyright and books not covered by copyright. It asked no authors or publishers for permission, and it offered no compensation for their use.”
As a modest author/copywriter myself, these accusation were particularly troubling. Indeed, if true I might have to boycott Google search and switch over to Yahoo!
Fortunately, it’s not true.
According to a column by Mathew Ingram published last month on Fortune.com – which I found by googling “google books” in Google News – the claim that Google Books is ripping off authors without compensation “is not even close to being accurate.”
“A few months ago, a U.S. appeals court ruled unanimously that Google’s scanning and indexing of millions of books was not a wholesale attack on authors and the copyright system, as the Authors Guild has been arguing for years, but is clearly permitted under the ‘fair use’ exemption in copyright law.”
In fact, here’s what U.S. Circuit Court Judge Denny Chin had to say about this matter in the original case…
“In my view, Google Books provides significant public benefits. It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders.”
And here’s what the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had to say just last October in affirming Judge Chin’s decision…
“In sum, we conclude that (1) Google’s unauthorized digitizing of copyright-protected works, creation of a search functionality, and display of snippets from those works are non-infringing fair uses. The purpose of the copying is highly transformative, the public display of text is limited, and the revelations do not provide a significant market substitute for the protected aspects of the originals…”
Well, alrighty then. Case closed.
The perception that Motley and Atwood are putting forward is that Google is copying the contents of entire books and making the entire content available online with no compensation to the author and copyright holder.
What Google is doing is scanning the books and then providing just a SNIPPET from the book for people to read.
And if the snippet captures the reader’s attention sufficiently enough that the inquisitor would like to obtain the entire book, Google links to either…
(a) Various bookstores, including Amazon.com and Overstock.com, where the book can be purchased, or…
(b) Libraries where the book can be obtained in your local area; just enter your zip code in the Search box.
Boy, does Google love “searching” for stuff!
Of course, this pertains to in-print copyrighted books. Millions of older books are copyright-free.
For those books there’s simply no copyright infringement or money due to the authors if Google ma
kes the entire contents available online, say, as an eBook.
As such, claims that Google is stealing the work of millions of authors without properly paying for it just aren’t so.
Indeed, the “Stop, thief!” claim seems to hinge on the belief that merely scanning copyrighted books is, itself, a copyright infringement even if Google never actually publishes or otherwise makes available the copyrighted work.
Sorry, but simply scanning and making searchable snippets of a copyrighted book is not what I (the author of a not-quite-best-selling book) would consider taking money out of my pocket. ———————->>>>
Instead, I see it as a possible additional opportunity where potential customers might find my book who otherwise would never know of its existence, let alone availability. And for that…
Thank you, Google Books!
(Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach Foundation – which, in the interest of full disclosure, is a recipient of Google Grant funding support – and author of “Getting Past the Gatekeeper: Inside Secrets, Simple Tips and Proven Strategies for Getting Your Foot in the Door with the Most Hard-to-Reach Major Donors, CEO’s, Celebrities and Political Big Shots,” available at Amazon.com)