Someone Tell the Authors Guild: Google Books Is Good for Authors

Google Books and its goo goo googly eyesGoogle filed a motion for summary judgment today in its battle against the Authors Guild, which wants the court to levy heavy fines on the company for the copyright infringements allegedly committed by the Google Books service. Speaking as an author myself, my sympathy here is entirely with Google.

This isn't just a matter of principle. It's self-interest. As a writer, I gain far more from Google Books than I could conceivably lose from it.

If you write the sort of books that require you to consult other books, then Google Books is a wonderful tool. I use it to search for phrases in books I already own, a task in which it outperforms virtually every volume's index. I use it as a general search engine when exploring a new topic or looking for different perspectives on a contentious issue, and it often points me to useful material that I previously was unaware of. And yes, I use it to read books: Google has posted tons of out-of-print texts that otherwise would be completely inaccessible to me, or would only be accessible if I traveled to a distant research library or paid a lot of money to an antiquarian bookshop. Thanks to the old tomes posted on Google Books and at the Internet Archive, I have shaved a month or more off the time required to complete the book I'm writing now.

Has Google ever allowed me not to pay for a book that's still covered by copyright? Sure, in the same way the ability to flip through a book in a store can convince me not to pay for it: by showing me that it isn't really worth it, or by allowing me to extract one or two bits of information from something I didn't need to read in full. It doesn't seem significant to me that this is accomplished through a relatively new technology, rather than by simply walking to the Barnes & Noble near my home.

At any rate, the book sales lost as a result of Google are surely dwarfed by the book sales lost as a result of libraries. Yet far from crusading against libraries, writers regularly campaign on their behalf. Most authors appreciate the fact that libraries help us far more than they hurt us. I just wish the folks who run the Authors Guild understood that the same is true of Google.

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  • Stormy Dragon||

    Speaking as an author myself, my sympathy here is entirely with Google.

    And as an author, you're perfectly free to license your books to them. The problem is Google is asserting the right to unilaterally publish any books it wants on terms it establishes and the author should be required to accept their offer.

    Whether it's a good deal or not is entirely beside the point. They're not Google's books, so it's not their place to make that decision.

  • robc||

    If google buys a copy, it is google's book.

  • CE||

    They must have missed the part in the beginning that says "all rights reserved".

  • robc||

    Well, rights come from "nature and nature's god", and copyright is granted by the constitution/congress* not by natural law, hence it isnt a right to begin with.

    So it isnt one of the rights reserved, as it isnt a right to begin with.

    *constitution gives congress the power to pass copyright laws, congress doesnt technically have to do it.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Your last point is correct, but, under the laws that do exist, publishing copies or derivative works without permission is a violation of the copyright holder's rights. First-sale doctrine allows you to give away or sell your copy but doesn't allow you to make additional copies.

  • Carston||

    But they aren't making additional copies, they are putting one copy on the web for all to see, exactly like giving away their copy.

    I suppose I am a bit bias in this subject though, I operate under the truth you cannot own that which does not have mass.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I hear you, but that's not the law. First-sale doctrine hasn't really made the jump to digital. To be fair, allowing that to be used for throwing digital "originals" on the web would pretty much gut copyright.

  • Carston||

    "would pretty much gut copyright."

    Good... Who here is in favor of monopolies anyway?

  • sloopyinca||

    One cannot own electricity? I wish Edison Power knew that. They just sent me a $200 bill for the last 30 days.

  • Enough About Palin||

    What the hell are you running? Mine is about $60/month.

  • sloopyinca||

    Well, it is central California and it has been 100+ almost every day the past month. In the fall winter and spring, my bills average out at $40-50/month.

  • Carston||

    Cant own electricity, but you can own the object that holds and transfers it, and you couldn't get that electricity without being given access or violating the physical property.

  • Juice||

    Like your identity?

  • Carston||

    No, you don't own (in the literal sense) your identity or reputation.

    Identity is defined as:
    "the collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known"

    Which is basically how others see and identify you, which are thoughts, and you definitely cannot own someone elses thoughts.

  • robc||

    you definitely cannot own someone elses thoughts.

    Which is the problem with patent and copyright law. They try to claim my thoughts as someone else's property.

  • Gray Ghost||

    ...I operate under the truth you cannot own that which does not have mass.

    So you can't own stock? A promise to be paid?

    The last time I looked at this, IIRC, the logic was that Google was facilitating you making a copy of the protected work on your browser.

    I guess it's time to revisit the law of copyright licensing. That'll end well.

  • Carston||

    "So you can't own stock? A promise to be paid?"

    That would be done via contract, which would be separate from this, other than copyright via contract, which is compatible with real property rights.

  • Billy!||

    Can that contract be assented to by the act of purchase? If so, that sounds pretty much like regular old copyright to me.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Unless they have designed the website so that only one person at a time can be looking at it, then they are making copies.

  • robc||

    So when you check a book out from the library, no one is allowed to shoulder surf you?

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's different.

  • robc||

    copyright holder's rights

    Stupid language being too ambiguous. You would think english would have enough words that we wouldnt have to reuse "rights", but Im claiming that 3rd word should be something different.

    Copyright holder's "deed of authorship" or something.

  • kinnath||

    Google allows you to search the text of a book to see if a set of keywords exist in the book. If the search results are positive, Google shows a very limited amount of context around the positive search result. Google prevents one from saving or printing the search results. And Google absolutely prevents a person from grabbing a complete digital copy of the protected work.

    Given the limited preview of the protected work that can be seen by an individual, I believe this falls under Fair Use and does not violate the copyright of the book.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Okay, this is more where I live. Then again, I'm not anti-IP like some other libertarians I know (though I am quite opposed to IP as it's currently enforced). Which makes me a Nazi.

  • robc||

    Not a nazi, just a slaver.

  • kinnath||

    :-)

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yeah, yeah property has to be tangible. I defy you most defiantly.

  • robc||

    Yeah, yeah property has to be tangible.

    I didnt (necessarily) say that. But an idea belongs to whoever thinks it, not just the person who thinks it first.

  • kinnath||

    I have always been a pretty hardcore IP supporter here. But I completely support Google on this one.

    If a book is under copyright, Google restricts how much of that book can be seen to just a few pages. This is fully in line with the Fair Use Doctrine that says that small portions of copyrighted text can be used for reviews, analysis, and educational purposes.

    And google prevents you from printing or saving the information that is presented. But google makes it extremely easy to buy whatever books you find. I have purchased a dozen or so expensive, hard-back books that related to research I was doing. There is no way I could have ever known these booked existed let alone have a chance to see if they were relevant to what I was working on.

    And google provides a means for authors/copyright holders to request that nothing from their books is shown in response to a search. I could see google being forced to switch to an opt-in model instead of an opt-out model. But I think the authors organization is wrong to oppose google.

  • robc||

    And google prevents you from printing

    No they dont.

    If I can see it on my screen, I can print it.

    I may have to use non-standard methods, but screen captures arent exactly rare.

    This is as bad as DRM stuff. If I can convert your digital to analog to play it, I can capture it and record it.

  • kinnath||

    True, they cannot prevent a screen shot from being captured and sent to a printer. But the amount of text that can be captured by any geven screen shot is very limited.

  • robc||

    Agreed, I was just fine tuning your statement.

    With appropriate software, you could run a bunch of different searches and capture all the pages and resequence later. It would be a lot of work, but it could be done.

    Also, apparently resequence isnt a word, according to chrome, its got a red squiggle under it.

  • kinnath||

    And a print of a screen shot is roughly equivalent to someone taking a book to a photocopier and capturing a page or two at a time.

    As far as I know, the Authors Guild is not suing Xerox, HP, or any other manufacturer of copy machines for facilitating copyright infringement.

  • robc||

    My point had more to do with the futility of attempts to stop this stuff.

    A few years back, I needed the info from a "unprintable" pdf. I didnt need to print it, but it was more handy that way.

    I ran it thru pdf2ps and then printed the postscript. What do you know, "unprintable" was complete bullshit.

    That wasnt any big deal, anyone familiar with that tool would know that that works, but its a point that the people pushing DRM just dont get.

  • kinnath||

    I view google books as an online libary with superior search capability. I can find relevant references fast and directly on point. I can see a few pages of text to verify that the reference, when taken in context, means what I think it means. And if I need a "permanent" record of what I found, I can grab a screen shot. I'm still going to have to type the text in by hand if I want to quote the author, but I can grab the title page and make sure I properly attribute the content to the author.

    What's not to like ;-)

  • R C Dean||

    Yet far from crusading against libraries, writers regularly campaign on their behalf.

    It probably helps that libraries are one of the biggest buyers of hardcover books, which happen to have the biggest profit margins.

  • E.H. Munro||

    It also helps that libraries pay royalties to the author/publisher every time a book is checked out.

  • ||

    It also helps that libraries pay royalties to the author/publisher every time a book is checked out.

    No library in the US works like this. Were are you getting your information?

  • ||

    I can't even believe he said that.

  • Pro Libertate||

    They do? Really?

  • ||

    No, they don't. Really.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It did have the hallmarks of insane implausibility. And it also, now that I'm thinking about it and not making snarky remarks with false naivete, flies in the face of the first sale doctrine.

  • SugarFree||

    The closest they come is the book rental model, but it is more of a buyback program than a royalty scheme. And it is generally not through a publisher.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Is that what they do when they temporarily get excess copies of super popular books? Like the Harry Potter novels, for instance.

  • SugarFree||

    Yes. It works in different ways, but generally each copy has a set number of times it can be checked out then it is returned.

    I've never had the advantages properly explained to me. I've never worked on the collection development side of circulation.

    But I was once a Bookmobile driver. Let that sink in.

  • ||

    Was it a windowless bookmobile?

  • SugarFree||

    They were never able to prove anything in a court of law.

  • sloopyinca||

    You can call it a Bookmobile all you want, but the rest of us know porno mags in the back of your 78 GMC Van with a "Free Candy" sign on the side does not constitute a literacy drive.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Say what you will, but I thought the Bookmobile was the shit when I was a kid. It was like the Internet, albeit without the porn and glorified chatrooms.

  • Franklin Harris||

    Not in the U.S. they don't.

  • Spoonman.||

    I used Google Books extensively to find sources when writing papers in college, as well. My papers were far more well-sourced, and I found many more interesting novelties, than my fellow students who just went to the library.

  • ||

    Google has posted tons of out-of-print texts that otherwise would be completely inaccessible to me, or would only be accessible if I traveled to a distant research library or paid a lot of money to an antiquarian bookshop.

    So Google Books is the equivalent of ATM in the literary/reading/book world? Why do you want to destroy jobs? JOOOOOOBS!

  • sloopyinca||

    OK, google books may be a good thing or a bad thing, but comparing it to Ass-To-Mouth is just ridiculous.

  • ||

    I have no snappy comeback... I'm laughing too damn hard.

  • sloopyinca||

    OT, but this needs to be discussed.

    Actually, it doesn't but any time a gorilla "accidentally" hangs himself on a Friday, the reason commentariat needs to offer up its condolences as only it can.

  • Pro Libertate||

    "Please check the URL for proper spelling and capitalization. If you're having trouble locating a destination, try visiting the AP home page or look through a list of AP's online services."

  • ||

    We really need to hold classes on how to post links in the comments...

  • Brett L||

    Your link didn't work for me, but this might.

    Also, it seems like a clear case of autoerotic asphyxiation.

  • ||

    "It was an accident," Brandl said. He said the ropes are checked daily.

    Apparently that's not often enough.

  • Brett L||

    Everybody lies when they find their dead friend hung from a rope with a pool of jizm at his feet.

  • mr simple||

    "It was an accident," Brandl said

    He just said that so they could give him a Christian burial. No mention of his demeanor in the time leading up to the incident.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I got an error from your link (it might just be Firefox). Here, maybe.

    Also, I think you're right about the cause.

  • mr simple||

    Brandl said another gorilla, Kamba, appeared to be trying to help Tatu when zookeepers arrived but "it's hard to say what exactly she was doing."

    Attempt at a cover up. It's a good thing the zookeepers got there in time, but what kind of place are they running where the gorillas think this the proper response?

  • sloopyinca||

    Perhaps they were re-enacting the life of Vincent Foster. If so, Kamba will likely end up dead within a week due to a "car accident" or "plane crash."

  • Enough About Palin||

    "He said there were no cameras in the room and it is not clear exactly what happened."

    Looks like the cops did it.

  • tarran||

  • sloopyinca||

    You guys can sit here and talk about SF'd links all day long, but a gorilla is dead.

    This is why libertarians aren't taken seriously.

  • Brett L||

    I'm busy being creeped out by the incredibly gay febreeze commercial.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Screw gorillas. Ever see Planet of the Apes? Gorillas are fascist, statist thugs.

  • SIV||

    And the Chimps are a bunch of cosmotarian progressives.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Not pictured were the bonobos, who were sex-crazed libertarians living in Hawaii.

  • ant1sthenes||

    That makes no sense. Bonobos are fucking hippies, chimps are skinheads.

  • Pro Libertate||

    You say this about a planet with walking, talking, gun-wielding apes?

  • ||

    This is why libertarians aren't taken seriously.

    I'm sure there are plenty of other reasons why we're not taken seriously.

  • sloopyinca||

    Okay, ^^this^^ and the fact that we want all the poor people, women and children to die in the streets so we can be carried over their bodies in our 200-man litters pulled by our slaves.

  • Lord Humungus||

    hey, it's a living.

  • ||

    Great, now I'm going to be walking around with an erection all day thinking about a libertarian utopia.

  • ||

    Mammals curator Pavel Brandl said Tatu likely unbraided one of the dozens ropes the gorillas use in their pavilion for climbing and put a strand around his neck before hanging himself.

    “It was an accident,” Brandl said. He said the ropes are checked daily.

    Yeah, sure sounds like an accident.

  • ||

    This is all coded racist talk against Obama.

  • ||

    I can't believe all you racist fucks. I'm leaving and never coming back, and I'm totally never coming back, not even using a sockpuppet, because I totally loom too large to do anything like that.

  • ||

    I have officially won this thread, because I say so.

  • ||

    Show me where I moved the goalposts. If anyone on my state championship debate team ever talked to me like you just did there, I would punch him in the face, and it would have totally knocked him out, because I'm not short at all.

  • SIV||

    "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill"

  • sloopyinca||

    aaaaaaaaaaaand SIV wins the thread.

  • TheZeitgeist||

    The comparison with Google and libraries only goes so far. Problem with Google is they are not some altruistic service. When I (or you) dig through Google Books Google remembers and tracks all my books and phrases etc.

    Then the bastards monetize it all throwing me ads for Hondas and seminars for end-of-the-world stock schemes (am I that bad?).

    If Google makes coin off those books, the authors should to. Sharing media is one thing. Taking someone's media to make money and keep it yourself - while donning the sheep's clothing of altruistic free knowledge - meh, not so much.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: The Zeitgeist,

    Then the bastards monetize it all throwing me ads for Hondas and seminars for end-of-the-world stock schemes (am I that bad?).


    I have the same problem when I visit Barnes and Noble. I peruse through the magazines and books, quietly, and suddenly I'm hit with the sweet aroma of gourmet coffee being served in their adjacent Starbucks, making me want to buy a capuchino. If Barnes and Noble makes a coin off those books, the authors should, too. Let's sue Barnes and Noble.

    Or grow up. You pick your poison.

  • Enough About Palin||

    Hola, Viejo Mexicano. Espero que estés bien.

  • TheZeitgeist||

    I have the same problem when I visit Barnes and Noble.

    Hell you do. A more apt comparison is going to Barnes and Noble and picking up an RFID tag that sniffs every book you flip through then a week later the pertinent junk mail starts showing up at your address.

    Also, I might also add Barnes and Noble paid for the books I flip through, and paid the authors - through whatever deal - to have those books on its shelf.

  • BakedPenguin||

    That's a fair point. Also, it would probably stop a lot of the anger at Google Books.

  • ||

    Google has a unique product: their indexing scheme.

  • SugarFree||

    Libraries are not altruistic either. They track usage stats to help with collection development and to justify tax increases based on circulation volume.

  • TheZeitgeist||

    Libraries are not altruistic either.

    They aren't in the right either, especially with their gatekeeper attitudes regarding what is 'fit' to print. But at least they paid for the books.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Do they share money with the websites that appear in search results?

  • sloopyinca||

  • Pro Libertate||

    Monkey Tuesday is on Tuesday, sloopy.

  • sloopyinca||

    You guys and your Urkobold Axis Of Glib can't intimidate me.

    Besides, in honor of Officer John Perreault, shouldn't it be changed to Monkey Monday.

  • Brett L||

    These are stories about apes, dude. You of all people should know better.

  • sloopyinca||

    He lumps all the simians together the same way Marion Barry lumps together all Asians.

    He makes me want to vomit with his disgusting speciesism.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I know Urkobold would have to get a million more readers to achieve merely obscure, but Penn Jillette firmly established that Monkey Tuesday applies to all non-human primates.

  • ||

    Just as a tomato is a fruit that is treated as a vegetable for cooking purposes, an ape is treated as a monkey for comedic purposes. Retard.

  • sloopyinca||

    Who the fuck treats a tomato as a vegetable for cooking purposes? Maybe people from Cleveland, but they think a river is a landfill, so I'm not taking their views too seriously.

  • ||

    You take your pedantic objections up with Penn. I'm just his lackey.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Anti-Armstrong, anti-Penn. I smell commie.

  • Ramjet||

    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

  • Brett L||

    Jesus. You'd think I had said good things about regional pizza.

  • Pro Libertate||

    You simply know nothing about monkeys, that's all.

  • ||

    Oh, so now you want to start a pizza fight? Well, let me assure you that the pizza from my area is superior to the pizza from your area.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Say, I have a thought. A panel of the great apes, judging pizza.

  • sloopyinca||

    That's impossible since you, Warty and Epi are on the TSA No-fly list.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I meant other great apes. You know, chimps, gorillas, orangutans, bonobos. I guess one human would be okay, so long as he doesn't use his superior intellect to sway the rest of the panel.

  • ||

    I don't think superior intellect will be enough to persuade those judges who are accomplished poop throwers.

  • Pro Libertate||

    You'd think, but we seem to have won on all of the other fronts. For now, anyway.

  • sloopyinca||

    So Simon Cowell would be OK to produce and star in it?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, I think he's qualified to deal with feces-flingers.

  • Juice||

    Jeez. She's an ape in a zoo. It's kinda like prison, so let her enjoy some pure pleasure.

  • sloopyinca||

    Wait, are you talking about Indonesia in general or the actual cage she's in? I am confuse

  • Gray Ghost||

    Does this count for simian news?

    I eagerly await the officer's being charged and tried for animal cruelty from this. I mean, they charged this dickhead for killing his pit bull when he left it in his car in Galveston for two hours. Seriously, how do you forget your two police dogs overnight in the back of your car?

    Just a horrible story.

  • sloopyinca||

    Wait a fucking minute. They have a piper and honor guard for the funeral of a fucking police dog? (Look at the photo)

    And there's no room to cut police budgets at all in America. Nope, not a fucking bit.

    BTW, that cop needs to be terminated immediately and prosecuted the same as any other person would be for animal cruelty x2.

  • TheZeitgeist||

    That photo is hilarious. The only one not acting out in officially sanctioned cosplay is Officer Melodrama's dog. He totally sees a squirrel off-camera.

  • robc||

    I want to be very clear:

    My thoughts are mine.
    My labor is mine.

    If you claim to own my thoughts or my labor you are a slaver. Patents and copyrights are attempts to claim my thoughts and my labor as your own.

    FUCK OFF, SLAVERS!

  • Pro Libertate||

    I hate you, robc, I hate you forever! [Runs to room, slams the door.]

  • robc||

    I was pro-IP at one time, but eventually I realized it was hypocritical.

    Actually, Im not entirely IP, I still support trademarks (but I consider that as being a fraud issue).

  • Pro Libertate||

    In the U.S., protection of IP rights is--in theory, at least--all about the utilitarian argument. Without the limited monopolies, we'd very likely have far fewer works. This is just for copyright and patents, of course. Trademarks serve a much different purpose.

    At some point, property rights are all about recognition, whether by each of us individually, by society, and/or by the government. I don't see a fundamental difference, except in regards to tangibility.

  • robc||

    The big difference is in thought.

    If you own a specified acre of land or a share of stock (intangible property), you arent restricting any of my thoughts. My brain is still entirely mine. I can do anything with my thoughts, as long as I dont trespass on your land. I can act on my thought HERE, but not THERE.

    But, with patent or copyright, Im universally banned from acting on my thought. Its impossible for me to use my thought without "trespassing".

    Am I not free to gambol thru my mind?

    With limited patent/copyright, maybe the counter-argument is that the trespassing is limited in time, if not space.

    Which is why, as IP goes, patents arent as bad as copyrights. Especially since copyright has effectively infinite lengths any more.

  • robc||

    Lol, I reasonable filtered myself.

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