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Authors Sue Google For Alleged 'Massive Copyright Infringement'

 7:31 am on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

"An organization of more than 8,000 authors accused Google Inc. Tuesday of "massive copyright infringement," saying the powerful Internet search engine cannot put its books in the public domain for commercial use without permission."


I'm sure most of us saw this one coming. Google insists that they will direct readers who want more to booksellers and libraries. (For a nice profit, no doubt.)



 9:33 pm on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Regarding fair use of copyrighted material, see:
Copyright Law of the United States of America
and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code




As to those who mention photos, "leaked memos", and other material which gets republished (on the news), these fall under the "news reporting" fair use.

Also, any information (memos, photos, reports, etc.) generated by government agencies is (in most cases) placed in the public domain or may be purchased for copying fees only, or requested under FOIA.

My opinion (which is worth the digital paper it's printed on) is that Google has no right to store entire books belonging to individual copyright holders.

This message (c)2005, lexipixel / WebmasterWorld User, no rights reserved. License is hereby granted for WebmasterWorld to republish this message in any and all formats. I hereby grant Google the non-exclusive right to index and archive this message. All other rights not claimed are hereby waived. E Pluribus Unim, Caveat Emptor, and Livin La' Vida Loca.


 9:54 pm on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

ggrot, it's not like a library. Harveyx and Herb are right in my opinion.

A library buys the book. The author is paid. But, the library can't tear apart the book, print copies and let their clients use all of those.

As for fair use: Selling ads on the copyrighted material pretty much knocks that out.

Now, what about a micropayment system, Google? Get those authors paid. Sell ads, too. Release the worlds information for just a few cents per user. Pay the folks who do the work. Help them, help the user and help yourself at the same time.

And, get people use to paying for material. Save local journalism. Etc.

Win-win-win-win, etc.


 10:16 pm on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Wasn't the Internet FREE to all before Google came along and controlled it all anyway?

Google is just providing a service but if authors want their stuff published online via Google, it only makes sense that their copyrighted work should be authorized for publication in any format.

I think suing Google is just an attempt to get money. After all Google does have deep pockets.


 10:17 pm on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

BTW a popular firefox extension [customise google] allows anyone to remove image copying restrictions in Google Print. So even if google is allowed to store electronic copies, how will it ensure the safety of data. Recently they did start asking for login before seeing the print page images, but that is not a way to prevent piracy of data.


 10:40 pm on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'd say Google's chances of winning outright are little more than their chances of nobbling the judge. However, this is the sort of case that will generate some some sort of dodgy judgement allowing both sides to claim victory.

Having said that, if Google loose badly, then they may have to rethink the caching of web pages.



 10:50 pm on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Copyright is a lot like it sounds - it grants exclusive rights to the author and or publisher to disseminate works as they wish. If authors don't want Google opening up the digitalizatiion can-of-worms with their own creations, then they are within their rights to do so. And it's ridiculous to expect all copyright holders to opt-out on Google's terms. In fact, this arrogance is downright laughable.

As an author under contract with a reputable niche publisher, I think Google is making a big mistake here.

I'd really like to hear our resident WW attorney Webwork's thoughts on this discussion.

Sweet Cognac

 11:21 pm on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Even the Copyright Office asks permission to copy your book. On the application they say, "Would you like your book printed in Braille?"


 11:22 pm on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

to expect all copyright holders to opt-out on Google's terms. In fact, this arrogance is downright laughable

To right. Perhaps Google need to rember that there where laws before they wrote their own terms.



 12:09 am on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

anyone knows that I was expressing an opinion. It's obvious that Google thinks they will win, otherwise they would not have done this. This has the potential of being a billion+ dollar mistake.

If everything was clear cut, we wouldn't need lawyers, judges or juries.


 12:38 am on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

Every time I read (yet another) article like this about Google Print, I have to roll my eyes. They've already scanned... how many books? And you're telling me that, as smart as the employees there allegedly are, not one of them thought to himself, perhaps we should consult our legal team before we invest X amounts of manpower, money, and time into this? Could these legal arguments have been over and done with prior to the start of the project, or do they prefer to do things by the seat of their pants without thinking them through fully? Seriously.

I think that Google must be shocked --SHOCKED-- that people aren't simply peeing in excitement over one of their products this time. They must really be arrogant if not one of them considered the potential copyright infringement issues before they started manually scanning pages. If this turns out badly for them (as I suspect it will), who will be to blame? The GP Product Manager? I have heard from various Google employees that they can't do anything in that company without Brin and Page's stamp of approval, so it would appear that the founders dropped the ball on this one.

Don't get me wrong, it was a great idea. It still is. But, dude, people want to get paid for their work! If authors around the world intended for their works to be free for the public to see and download, they wouldn't bother to sell them in book shops, etc! One does not have to be a mensa member to have foreseen the problems that riddled this project from the get-go.


 1:10 am on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think that Google must be shocked --SHOCKED-- that people aren't simply peeing in excitement over one of their products this time.

I think that's spot on. In fact, everyone was excited from December, when the project was announced, to May, when Peter Givler from The Association of American University Presses wrote that open letter to Google. There were one or two who raised the copyright issue briefly, but you had to be scanning on the issue daily to even catch them.

Then the University of Michigan had to reveal the confidential contract in June due to a freedom of information request. That contract confirmed in writing some of the worst fears of publishers regarding Google's arrogance and attitude. For example, Google is implicitly claiming a new copyright on their digital copies, and reserves the right to license them or sell them in perpetuity. Meanwhile, the University of Michigan is very severely restricted as to what it's able to do with its own copy of the digital files.

And as for the question of, "What were they thinking?" -- well, I don't think they were thinking at all. To quote from the Christian Science Monitor, June 27, 2005:

"We had all these cockamamie schemes for how we could get content," recalls Marissa Mayer, director of consumer Web products at Google. "We thought, well, could we just buy books? But then you don't get the old content. We thought maybe we should just buy one of every book, like from Amazon, and scan them all." How long would it take to scan all the world's books? No one knew, so Ms. Mayer and Google cofounder Larry Page decided to experiment with a book, photographing each page so that it could be digitally scanned. "We had a metronome to keep us on rhythm for turning the pages. Larry's job was to click the shutter, and my job was to turn the pages," Mayer says. "It took us about 45 minutes to do a 300-page book."

That's according to CSM staff writer Gregory M. Lamb. Now this is pure speculation:

Larry says to Sergey, "Hey, the University of Michigan loves me. The engineering department gave me a medal recently. I'll bet we could cut a deal with their library." Sergey says, "Great idea, dude. I'll start working on Stanford's library. Stanford will get rich off of their Google options, so how can they refuse?"

Now if you're a lonely lawyer in a Google cubicle who knows a thing or two about copyright law, and you won't be vested for a while yet, and the free lunches are great, are you going to keep your mouth shut? You betcha.

But the point is, there was so much "Google is cool" juice in the culture for such a long time, that Google almost made it happen without serious opposition. They didn't have to be thinking, because they were already used to having everything they wanted dropped into their laps.


 1:55 am on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

G$ will lost. It is supposed to be an opt-in program, not opt-out.


 2:29 am on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

Good. I hope Google is sued and damages are a couple of



 3:40 am on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

Google=Napster just books not music. the authors just need to get Metallica after them.
Oh..and doesn't it just make google another scraper site?


 4:01 am on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

Is it just me or is Google starting to feel as evil as Microsoft?


 7:25 am on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

"Oh..and doesn't it just make google another scraper site?"

My thoughts exactly.

Google + Scraper + Evil as Microsoft = Scrooglesoft


 9:13 am on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

Please correct me if Iím wrong but I thought it said somewhere (earlier on when this google project has just been announced) that google are only going to scan/print material that is out of copyrights. Old public domain material. Wasnít it?

Otherwise, their approach to ďauthors having to opt outĒ is a really good joke :)


 10:59 am on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

No it's not just public domain, it includes any work in the library.

Because you see they have to organize ALL the world's information--just some of the information isn't enough if you want to be a billionaire.


 11:01 am on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

They have been getting away with the "opt-out" Google web site cache for years. Why does "Opt-out" caching still exist?

I'd prefer my site not be cached, but always worry what will happen to SERP's. Some say nothing, some say "No-cache" is harmful.

As far as I can tell copyright law is being applied to web content mostly, so if the Google cache is a test case they've already won!

Even private copies of copyighted works are supposed to be for archival use only, not boosting efficiency and cutting cost in generating SERP's


 3:24 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)


I participate in private forums at an authors association, and the members active there were concerned (some very upset) about copyright infringement from the very first anouncements of the Google plan.

There was never any doubt that Google was going to find itself in a battle. It was just a question of which parties would take the lead.


 3:40 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

Even if google wins, they could still lose in the end. Laws aren't carved into stone. Even the constitution has amendments. At some point in the future the 'Fair Use' rules will have to be vastly updated to deal with the digital age.

I myself am waiting for laws where the robots.txt file is reversed. I opt-in search engines instead of having to opt-out. I would like to see search engines (or any site), that uses ads on pages containing my URL+snippet, pay me a percentage of the profit they make. If a serp page is nothing more than content scraped from others copyrighted material, everyones website on that page should get a percent of the profit from any ads running on that page. How about I define which information on a page can be used for the snippet and the percentage of profit I want for use of that snippet?

Sounds unreal, but only under todays Fair Use laws. Courts only apply the law, they don't create it.


 4:23 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

Something to ponder... The publishers/authors may not be able to make a case against Google. It may be necessary that they bring their action against: NY public library Harvard, Stanford, Michigan and Oxford. Who by (assumed) agreement authorized the copying. According to ABC News "The Michigan and Stanford libraries had agreed to submit all of their material to the Google scanners".


 4:37 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

herb thats a pretty interesting point. Question is who is responsible. the entitly who requested permission or the entity who granted it.



 4:53 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

I can give anyone permission to scan all the material in my library, but that doesn't give anyone the legal right to do so unless I'm the copyright holder. Google simply asked the wrong entity for permission. It is Google's duty to gain permission from the legal copyright holder.


 5:32 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

The action word is "AGREEMENT". Most are written and contain the "INDEMNIFICATION" clause. I have not seen the agreement nor do I know anyone who has. I am basing my presumption of agreement on the ABC article referenced at the beginning of this thread. It may boil-down to who agreed to indemnify who. Either way it may not matter, both could be or are targets.


 6:20 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

The library may be partly liable, but the fact is this action is being taken against Google, not the library. Without a shadow of a doubt, Google copied the books and stored the copied data therefore they are liable (if the copyright law has been broken). The library may have been foolish but it is unlikely that their liability would substantially exceed the profits they have made (if any) from the arrangement.



 6:31 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

In any case I would think the law will side with copyright owners, not Google, or the libraries.

Related [authorsguild.org]

The Supreme Court clearly articulated a fundamental position that we have held and protected for years: Others should not disseminate or profit from our creative product without first securing our permission and paying us our fair share.


 6:38 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

I don't get all the fuzz is about. By the same logic Google should not crawl the websites. After all, websites also belong to authors, and they are copyrighted automatically.

Maybe all of you who are against Google Print should go and create robots.txt on your sites to disallow SEs from crawling.


 7:21 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

"I don't get all the fuzz is about. By the same logic Google should not crawl the websites. After all, websites also belong to authors, and they are copyrighted automatically."

Google automatically opts you in unless you FIRST opt-out. Copyright gives you the EXCLUSIVE rights to that material as well as distribution of that material. In other words a copyright FIRST opts you out unless you grant permission FIRST. Google ASSUMES permission FIRST which is completely against what a copyright is.

Then enters the Fair Use debate which we have all heard before so I will spare you all.

"Maybe all of you who are against Google Print should go and create robots.txt on your sites to disallow SEs from crawling."

See statement above. Why should have to EXCLUDE SEs from crawling? By right they should obtain permission FIRST by a robots INCLUSION. Again enter Fair Use.

If you want to throw in an added mix then how about TOS on individual websites where they are leagal contracts between those person(s) or entities entering into a website even through automated means? Something to the effect of: Material contained within this website may not be reproduced in its entirely or in part for commercial or non-commercial purposes without prior WRITTEN approval.


 8:52 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

Sounds unreal, but only under todays Fair Use laws. Courts only apply the law, they don't create it.

Um, in this case Fair Use was defined by the courts over a century before it made it into law. The basis for the fair use doctrine was Folsom v. Marsh in 1841, yet did not make it into Title 17 till 1976.

Fair use was created to allow the copyright laws to be constitutional. SCOTUS is extremely unlikely to let congress just legislate Fair Use away, they will need to have a constitutional ammendment to be able to do that.


 9:05 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

As a member from the UK I don't know if this is relevent to the USA but I understood that copyright was covered by an international convention (the Berne Convention) that says what is and what is not allowable.

If this is the case surely authors from around the world could sue Google in their own countries - could prove very expensive for Google as a ruling in one country would not necessarily apply to all.

Mind you, I'm not a lawyer, just a humble webmaster trying to make a living......

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