Google Print

Has Google bitten off more than it should chew?

Official Google Blog: The point of Google Print

Imagine one giant electronic card catalog that makes all the world’s books discoverable with just a few keystrokes by anyone, anywhere, anytime.

That’s the vision behind Google Print, a program we introduced last fall to help users search through the oceans of information contained in the world’s books. Recently, some members of the publishing industry who believe this program violates copyright law have been fighting to stop it. We respectfully disagree with their conclusions, on both the meaning of the law and the spirit of a program which, in fact, will enhance the value of each copyright.

You really should read the full article, don’t go just by my cut and pasted version here.

For many books, these results will, like an ordinary card catalog, contain basic bibliographic information and, at most, a few lines of text where your search terms appear.

We show more than this basic information only if a book is in the public domain, or if the copyright owner has explicitly allowed it by adding this title to the Publisher Program (most major U.S. and U.K. publishers have signed up). But just as any Web site owner who doesn’t want to be included in our main search index is welcome to exclude pages from his site, copyright-holders are free to send us a list of titles that they don’t want included in the Google Print index.

My concern here is that it will be like those magazine subsciptions where you have to tell them to stop sending you books. If you don’t they send all the titles for that month and bill your credit card automatically. Will Google assume everything is fine until you contact them? Contacting Google isn’t easy. Will they have contact addresses up for authors. Will they make sure they are available and more importantly, will they be checked and acted upon quickly? How many people may have copied an author’s content by the time Google gets the notice to remove it? Does Google have the right to assume they can use an author’s content? Although it would be a massive undertaking, perhaps Google should have permission beforehand, rather than leaving it for the author (the owner of the content) to contact them. That part does seem backwards to me. I understand contacting every author would be impractical and yet, it doesn’t seem right to assume you can reprint anything, as if you have full rights to it. Very interesting situation with this. Definitely a test for “fair use”.

Indeed, some of Google Print’s primary beneficiaries will be publishers and authors themselves. Backlist titles comprise the vast majority of books in print and a large portion of many publishers’ profits, but just a fraction of their marketing budgets. Google Print will allow those titles to live forever, just one search away from being found and purchased.

If something is out of print where does Google think it will be available for purchase? Publishers can’t keep endless copies of books, on the chance someone will request a copy they found through Google Print? A library of HTML documents takes up far less space and will not deteriorate as paper books will.

As a writer, I do not want my content used this way. I want to have some control over where it is and (at least) to be asked before it’s used. I especially do not want someone else claiming rights or making money from my work. Google Print is not expecting this (on it’s own behalf) but they have (and offer) no control over what happens to the content once it is viewed (and copied/ removed) from Google Print.

The theory of Google Print is great. It may not be very practical though.

I think this is the first time I’ve ever felt some concern over the Google monopoly. I don’t worry about Gmail, Google keeping backup of every email I send or receive, whatever. But, this is different. The articles, graphics and such which I create are not available for anyone to randomly display. Yes, I know I have limited control over anything I put online. I know how likely it is to be plaguerized, stolen, borrowed, etc. But, for Google to do this opens the doors much wider for others to take even bigger chunks. Where does “fair use” end?

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