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A View from David Appell

Google and Copyright Issues

Google is in the news again, and the company which famously promises to “do no evil” seems once again to be on the wrong side of the issue. This time the contretemps is over copyright issues. Google, which a while…

  • August 12, 2005

Google is in the news again, and the company which famously promises to “do no evil” seems once again to be on the wrong side of the issue. This time the contretemps is over copyright issues. Google, which a while ago announced they wanted to scan copyrighted books from some of the world’s largest university libraries and index the material in their search engine, has halted the project until at least November. Seems copyright owners have problems with the effort, and who can really blame them–copyright protection is, after all, one way publishers make their money. Somewhat amazingly, Google wants copyright owners to opt-out of their program, instead of Google having to do the work of contacting copyright owners to get them to opt-in.

Google wants publishers to notify the company which copyrighted books they don’t want scanned, effectively requiring the industry to opt out of the program instead of opting in.

That approach rankled the Association of American Publishers.

“Google’s announcement does nothing to relieve the publishing industry’s concerns,” Patricia Schroeder, the trade group’s president, said in a statement Friday. “Google’s procedure shifts the responsibility for preventing infringement to the copyright owner rather than the user, turning every principle of copyright law on its ear.”

It would be one thing if Google offered royalties to copyright owners, but so far the company hasn’t promised to share any profits they make off the project.

Google is looking more and more like just another large corporation which tramples over anyone who gets in their way. As someone who cares about copyright, and who would also like to be able to download scanned books from these major libraries, I’m hoping the project goes forward–but only in a way that considers the rights and needs of publishers as well.

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