More Perspectives on Google Books

An abundance of writing on Google Books this week. First, Paul Courant, the University Librarian and Dean of Libraries at the University of Michigan, has a new blog that begins with a candid assessment of what it’s like “being in bed with Google.” Google antagonist Siva Vaidhyanathan provides an immediate response and some good, as-yet-unanswered questions on his new Googlization of Everything blog. (Picky criticism to go along with the praise for Siva: if one of your main arguments is that Google is “flagrantly violating copyright,” it’s probably not a good idea to do the same thing on your blog by frequently reproducing copyrighted articles.)

Meanwhile, I think the best assessment of Google and Google Books comes this week from Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land: “Google: As Open As It Wants To Be (i.e., When It’s Convenient).” Sullivan writes, “There’s probably no deeper example of Google being closed than when it comes to book search…if Google’s on an ‘open’ kick [with OpenSocial and the Open Handset Alliance], why not join the Open Content Alliance?” As I’ve noted in this space, openness is the preeminent question about Google Books, rather than questions of scan or search quality (which can be improved).


Hey, thanks for the props.

To explain my full-text postings: For a variety of reasons that would take too long to explain in comments, posting of entire Web-based articles about which one is commenting on a not-for-profit Web site is almost never an infringement. And posting them on a for-profit site is rarely and infringement.

The reason is the “self-help” or “notice-and-takedown” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This and the landmark case Kelly v. ArribaSoft made clear that different copyright norms exist for the Web world and the real world.

That said, Google has built its entire Web search empire on the act of copying Web sites into its index in total, without permission, without compensation. And that’s good.

But in Book Search, Google is reaching into the real world and forcing it to comply with the norms of the Web world. And that’s not necessarily good. Or, at least, it’s likely to cause more trouble than it solves because courts will recoil.

This is all in the context of Hollywood and Microsoft trying to undermine the “notice-and-takedown” provisions of the DMCA.

As I said. Long story.

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