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October 31, 2005
Speaking Volumes, Part II
Tim O' Reilly has excellent one-stop shopping for this weekend's debate about Google Print library on Dave Farber's IP list. Here, a snippet that's helpful for explaining what the Authors Guild and publishers are asking for in the name of copyright (hyperlink, mine):
Google is making it possible for us to find books we want to buy (or borrow from the library, which isn't a crime just yet). Google is not letting us read books for free. Not even close. Does anyone really think that someone who wanted to read Angle of Repose would instead use Google Print and decide that the snippet of Stegner was sufficient?
So what are the Authors Guild and the publishers complaining about? They're complaining that Google hasn't offered to share the profits that might accrue thanks to ads Google may someday display, or that are attributable to the marginal increase in general Google traffic. But on what basis do they claim entitlement to that brand new revenue stream? The money is not based on the public copying the book -- which is what copyright protects against -- it's based on the public FINDING the book in the first instance.
Now I suppose that the Authors Guild folks want to claim that they should get a share of any way of making money related to locating their works. That's an interesting argument, but it's not a copyright claim. If copyright owners approached libraries and demanded a share of library funds because of the existence of the card catalog it would be difficult to stifle the giggles. Yet isn't the same thing going on here? Stealing an analogy from law Prof Tim Wu, we have never given real property owners the right to "opt out" of any mechanism that helps people find their property -- maps. That's just not in the bundle of rights you get when you buy a home and preventing location tools is also not in the bundle of rights that come with copyright.
Two previous relevant Copyfight posts: A Copy Is As a Copy Does
and Speaking Volumes
. Also see Google's Tough Call
-- Larry Lessig's .02, now available online.
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