Op Ed -- Little Red Herrings -- Is the Google Book Decision an Unqualified Good?
Op Ed -- Little Red Herrings -- Is the Google Book Decision an Unqualified Go od?
Mark Herring 0
0 Winthrop University
1 by Mark Y. Herring, Dean of Library Services, Dacus Library, Winthrop University
Follow this and additional works at: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/atg Part of the Library and Information Science Commons Recommended Citation
Op Ed — Little Red Herrings
Is the Google Book Decision an Unqualified Good?
r Udeserted island or stranded (or
nless you’ve been living on a
not?) like the pelagic castaway
o Jose Ivan (http://bit.ly/1fq6JsJ) for
over a year, you could not possibly have
t missed the news that Google’s mass
digitization project, Google Books,
i won its case.
The short version of the story is that
d about eight years and millions of
dollars ago, Google partnered with first a
half-dozen or so major research libraries
to scan all their books. This move was
Enot an ill-conceived, off-the-cuff
decision. CEOs Page and Brin wanted to
do this — scan all the world’s books —
back when Google was called BackRub.
d Over time, those half-dozen libraries
became a dozen, then two dozen and finally
ncloser to three dozen major research
institutions. Some libraries, however,
a had second thoughts and dropped out.
Google decided to scan everything — in
toto as academics are wont to say even
when not referring to the Wizard of Oz
s — (http://bit.ly/1brG0Kg), from the title
page to the back matter.
n Some authors didn’t much care for
this opt-out approach and said so. The
o Authors Guild
(https://www.authorsguild.org) reminded Google about this
i little thing we call copyright, but Google
being Google (and having a googol
html) dollars at its disposal) ignored the
i reminder, and the matter went to court
— for the next eight or so years.
p Judge Denny Chin (https://www.
google.com/#q=Denny+chin) on the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second
Circuit, held the matter and, after
numerous fits and starts, decided in November
2013 to give Google the win. The matter
is under appeal by the Authors Guild
What Google won was the right to
display the snippets it shows of materials
that are copyright protected (anything in
—public domain is shown in full). Google
did this without permission and without
any remuneration to those holding the
copyright, whether authors or publishers.
d Chin agreed with Google that the
snippets were “fair use,” something many did
not see coming, but most hoped would
be the outcome. (Left undecided was
EGoogle’s decision to scan cover-to-cover
all those books without permission.)
While “fair use” has long been a staple
of what libraries are able to do with
materials, this is the first such case in which
a commercial enterprise has been able
successfully to claim fair use of an
enormous amount of material without asking
for any permission, written, verbal, or
otherwise. Fair use appears in Section
107 of the U.S. Copyright Law of 1976
and can be viewed here (http://www.
copyright.gov/title17/) in its confusing
and inglorious entirety.
When the decision came down, the
twitterverse, as it is apt to do, went all
atwitter. It “exploded” as the phrase
has it. For example, here (http://wapo.
(http://nyti.ms/1dqYAlk), here (http://bit.ly/1eyCwtC) and
here (http://reut.rs/1eUUdQK) are a few
of the hundreds of gleeful comments.
Even librarians (http://bit.ly/1c4Dppn)
were in a lather of joy about it.
Almost. Not this librarian, although
I know I’m in the minority when I say
it. The Google Book Decision — what
a publisher friend of mine likes to call
“Google Book Theft” — gives me pause
for a number of reasons.
First, it turns copyright and fair use
on its head. Copyright is already
upside-down, and this hasn’t helped. Now
the matter is nothing short of vertiginous.
To say anything is NOT fair use now
will be a real challenge. Many of you
are doubtless thinking that would be a
good thing. But no, Martha, it would
not. Of all the things that can be said
bad about our copyright laws — and
there are thousands of things I can think
of in sixty seconds — they still protect
intellectual property. Determining what
fair use is now is anyone’s guess.
Everything is, is the way I read it now (and
I bet Google does, too). Furthermore,
this will provoke Congress to reexamine
copyright, something it has done about
a half-dozen times in my lifetime. And,
yes, they have made it worse each time.
When Congress touches copyright, the
old joke about the opposite of progress
is congress, really hits home.
Second, there is no evidence, no
empirical evidence, that shows any
additional Internet exposure of any
authors’ works improves royalties. Of
course, no academic expects (or should
expect) to make
any “real” money
Those that can be
named — Bloom,
Edgar — can be
named because they are so few in
number. But to take away from academics
any chance to improve those anemic
bottom lines seems cruel, especially
when Google with its gazillions could
easily have shared (instead of giving it
to lawyers). To test this idea, look at
what the Internet has done to music.
Sure, any group can get a million hits
with even a so-so song. But those
million hits and $5 still won’t buy you a cup
of coffee at, well, at you know where.
Likewise, authors will now get more
exposure but that will not necessarily
turn into more sales. I won’t say that’s
QED, but it comes pretty close.
Third, this gives the
informationwants-to-be-free crowd (i.e., most of
cyberdom) a stranglehold on all
intellectual property. This group believes what
is yours is theirs, and what is theirs is
theirs, a kind of socialism of information
(and we all know how well socialism
works). They shouldn’t have to pay for
any information because it should all be
for the common good. All of it. This
sounds really good until all of a sudden,
that textbook you wrote that sold a few
thousand copies is now everywhere, or
that rubric you created is now in 5,000
schools, all courtesy of the Internet, or
that cloning technique you worked years
to perfect is now everywhere you look
online, all without any reference to you
or the hand you had in it. It’s one thing
when you do this yourself; it’s quite
another when someone else does it for
you without asking. That sounds very
self-centered, I know, but it isn’t as if
good ideas are superfluous. I’m not
saying we do not need reforms in the whole
information access calculus. But this one
isn’t so much a reform as an unhinged
revolution. Those can be fun, too, until
they start shooting at you.
Lastly, the decision simply adds to the
UGC — user generated content — that
Google has expropriated. Again when
we do this voluntarily, no one should
complain. But for Google to decide that
copyright does not apply to what it wants
to do is mind-boggling. It is doubly so,
since Google kowtows to the demands
made on it in Europe, and especially
in places like China. Here, however,
intellectual property is meaningless and
merely another potential revenue stream.
Google takes what it finds and makes it
“free” to the world. The “free” refers to
what Google pays for the idea, not what
it makes back from all those ideas.
So, is the Google Book Decision
an unqualified good? Certainly it is
continued on page 43
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Op Ed — Little Red Herrings
from page 42
for Google. For intellectual property, not so
much. For small- to medium-sized publishers,
again, not at all. For discovery of materials,
yes and no. Yes, because they can be found;
no, because they are likely to be lifted, for free,
or you’ll get a snooty email asking why you’re
a stinking, dirty, money-grubbing capitalist.
(And for your information, all those billionaires
in Silicon Valley are not capitalists; they just
got rich quick, that’s all!)
In a sense, we all work for Google now, free
of charge. I suppose that fits since we all now
attend the “University of Google,” right?
from page 22
Speaking of the Charleston Conference, the
Call for Preconferences at the 2014
Charleston Conference is out. And the Call for Papers
opens tomorrow! Get on the stick! Time’s a
call-2014-preconferences-now-open/ and http://
You Gotta Go to School for That?
from page 41
I want to spend the time and money to travel
somewhere just to “screen” films when I can
do it from the comfort of my office computer
screen? This experience at the National Media
Market answered that question for me.
I suppose I’m making a case for the film
“experience.” I’m trying to say that viewing
a few seconds of a film from one’s desktop is
not really “screening” a film. The fact is that
randomly reviewing films from my desktop
cannot hold a candle to sitting in a screening
room with an audience and getting the full film
experience. There really is a big difference
between watching a film, even a trailer, and
The 2014 Charleston Conference
program is shaping up! We can let everybody in
on a few things.
First, the fantastic Anthea C. Stratigos
will be our main keynote speaker. We
mentioned Outsell’s End-User Study of
Faculty and Students above in this issue. Ms.
Stratigos is co-founder and CEO of Outsell,
Inc. (founded in 1994), a leading research
and advisory firm that focuses exclusively
on the information and publishing industries,
14-03-24 7:31 AM
periencing a film in its natural environment on
the big screen with a big audience.
Of course we often have to make buying
decisions based solely on reviews or the few minutes
we can give to online trailers. So, yes, one can
get an idea of the worth or appropriateness of a
film title by a quick desktop trailer. We have
to do that most of the time. But, I posit that we
media librarians (dare I say “film” librarians?)
cannot fully grasp the medium we cherish,
promote, and nourish without being regularly
washed in the real/reel thing upon occasion. Just
as one cannot live on fast food alone, one should
spend at least one week a year savoring a full
film meal at theNational Media Market. Next
year it is in Charleston again just ahead of the
Charleston Conference. Certainly, this is yet,
another reason to come to Charleston early.
providing analysis and recommendations
for high-level executives regarding
markets, trends, benchmarks and best practices.
Anthea is Outsell’s primary spokesperson,
and chairs Outsell’s Leadership Council, a
member-service for CEOs and senior
executives of publishing and information-provider
firms. Ms. Stratigos holds a B.S. degree in
Communication from Stanford University
(1983) and graduated from the Executive
continued on page 47