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May 28, 2005
Over at FindLaw, Julie Hilden has taken it upon herself to explore the theoretical implications of the much-discussed flash movie that predicts "Googlezon" -- that is, a future where Google and Amazon have merged, joining search capability with detailed, personalized knowledge of the user. Hilden argues that if something like Googlezon materializes, the current fuss over copyright infringement through filesharing will be very small potatoes indeed.
[As] I will explain in this column, it's very possible that equally - if not more - important Internet copyright issues may be on the horizon. Moreover, these issues may relate not only to how we get our entertainment, but also to how we get our news.
The issues are as simple and fundamental as they are troubling: Exactly how much content may be copied on the Internet - and of what kind -- before copyright is infringed? And more deeply, when is content "copied" in the first place when it comes to the Internet? Does the fact that the copying is done via a machine editor - not a human editor - make a difference?
Hilden suggests that if Googlezon's bots copy the best stuff from the Net, personalize and deliver it to you, it could create a compilation so attractive, you'd be tempted to give up ordinary newspapers and their online outposts altogether (many would argue we're well on our way). The question is, at what point will the bots become so good at what they do that a judge will feel compelled to protect the original sources?
Making compilations like this illegal, as copyright infringement, would challenge the status of a lot of traditional research - such as virtually any doctoral thesis, nonfiction book, academic paper, and on and on. For this reason, I agree with [Googlezon flash movie creators] Sloan and Taylor that the Supreme Court would likely rule for Googlezon - not "old media" - in its Supreme Court case.
But it's also possible the Court - or, ultimately Congress, in the wake of the Court's decision - would rework copyright in a way that better fits the Internet.
Like the flash piece, an intriguing thought experiment. Read the whole thing
Previous related reading here @ Copyfight: Alan's Google's Scan Plan Draws Critics.
Update: More food for thought on Hilden's piece over @ Importance Of..., where Ernie Miller presses once more for the logic of focusing on distribution rights, not copyrights, for digital works:
Copies, copies, copies. That is sooo 20th century. Computers make copies, that is what they do. I imagine, but don't know the technical details, that Google's ginormous database of books has numerous complete copies of the works stored, and not just as backups, either. So what?
We can waste all our time trying to figure out how many angels dance on the head of a pin as develop archane rules on when copies are made and whether those particular copies violate copyright, or we can think about information as a flow, as a transfer, as a distribution.
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