Feeds

Google brands ebook monopoly critics 'shortsighted'

Brin and his spin

Boost IT visibility and business value

Poised to create a court-approved monopoly in the digital book market, Google's $125m library-scanning settlement is under investigation by the US Department of Justice and possibly state attorneys general. But Google co-founder Sergey Brin has defended the company's pact with American authors and publishers, calling criticism of the deal "pretty short-sighted and contradictory."

In October, the company settled a lawsuit from the US Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, and if approved by the court the deal would hand Google - among other things - an eternal license to scan and sell and post ads against so-called "orphan works," books whose rights are controlled by authors and publishers who have ceased to exist or can't otherwise be located.

And this legal protection would apply only to Google. "Google will have permission to bring under its sole control information that has been accessible through public institutions for centuries," Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle wrote in an editorial published earlier this week by The Washington Post. "In essence, Google will be privatizing our libraries."

Of course, Sergey Brin doesn't see the problem. In an interview with The New York Times, he said the settlement would allow Google to offer widespread access to millions of books that are largely hidden in university libraries. "We are increasing choices," Mr. Brin told The Times. "There was no option prior to this to get these sorts of books online."

Ah, but that's because no one else was willing to get themselves sued for multimillions of dollars.

Like Google, the Internet Archive has spent years working to digitize the world's library collections. To date, it has scanned over 150 million pages and put more than a million books online. Certainly, the organization advocates putting orphan works on the net. But it believes that right should not be limited to a single company. The orphan-works issue should be decided by government legislation, the Archive argues, not by a civil lawsuit.

"Scanning books and preparing them for discovering and presentation is not rocket science, and it's not that expensive," the Archive's Peter Brantley tells The Reg. "We would be delighted to digitalize [orphans] and make them available if we had legislation-afforded mechanisms by which we could do that - without fear of substantial liability. All we need is legislation."

From where Google is sitting, there's nothing stopping the Archive - or anyone else. Speaking prior the company's shareholders meeting earlier this month, Google senior vice president and chief legal officer David Drummond said that "anyone who wanted to go scan" books could "come up with a similar outcome," meaning anyone else could reach their own book settlement.

It's true. Anyone could follow in Google's footsteps. They could start scanning books without regard for copyright and hope for a legal onslaught from the world's authors and publishers. In this case, scanning books is extremely expensive. Some have questioned whether even the big names could foot the bill.

"Virtually the only way that Amazon.com, Microsoft, Yahoo!, or the Open Content Alliance could get a comparably broad license as the settlement would give Google would be by starting its own project to scan books," writes Pamela Samuelson, University of California, Berkeley law professor.

"The scanner might then be sued for copyright infringement, as Google was. It would be very costly and very risky to litigate a fair use claim to final judgment given how high copyright damages can be (up to $150,000 per infringed work). Chances are also slim that the plaintiffs in such a lawsuit would be willing or able to settle on equivalent or even similar terms."

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Next page: Brin spin

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Nadella: Apps must run on ALL WINDOWS – PCs, slabs and mobes
Phone egg, meet desktop chicken - your mother
White? Male? You work in tech? Let us guess ... Twitter? We KNEW it!
Grim diversity numbers dumped alongside Facebook earnings
Microsoft: We're making ONE TRUE WINDOWS to rule us all
Enterprise, Windows still power firm's shaky money-maker
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.