Thursday, September 22, 2005

Authors Sue Google

In a battle somewhat reminiscent of the Great Napster Debacle, an authors guild representing 8000 authors filed a class action suit against Google, claiming copyright infringement. (CBC Business News: Authors Guild sues Google over book search). At issue is Google Prints' plan to scan millions of books and make the contents searchable online. A closer look at the actual offering renders the authors' position somewhat ridiculous, however.

Consider the following:
  • The Google Print plan does not make the entire book - or even large sections of the book - available online.
  • Authors may opt out of the program, excluding their books from the search and online display.
  • The books themselves will become searchable, and the section around the search term will be viewable online.
  • The search will contain a link to several online sellers where the viewer may actually purchase the book online.
  • The search will contain a link to local libraries that have copies of the book in circulation.

How any of this violates US copyright law is beyond me. In fact, use of the Google Print feature will actually increase sales of the books, and render the book accessible world-wide. Any author that chooses to opt out of this program is in need of a Marketing 101 course. Perhaps Google can offer a link to that as well.

Whenever I see foolish lawsuits of this nature, I have to wonder why the public libraries themselves have not been targeted for copyright infringement. After all, they purchase single copies of a book and make that book accessible to entire communities. The authors receive no royalties anytime the book is checked out of the library. Does that concept not cost the author revenue? After all, if the library did not exist book sales would increase.

The Google lawsuit is frivolous at best. Let's hope the courts toss this one out without wasting too much of our tax dollars in the process.


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