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HarperCollins Will Begin Digitizing Books

To PROTECT Author's Rights

     
7:25 pm on Dec 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The move comes as the U.S. publishing industry is bringing lawsuits against Web search leader Google over its effort to scan copyrighted books in libraries--a move the industry fears would set a dangerous copyright precedent.

Chief Executive Jane Friedman said HarperCollins, a division of News Corp., had no immediate plan to raise revenue from the digital copies of the books but it had concluded it was a vital move to protect its authors' rights.

Full Story [news.com.com]

Sounds like a step in the right direction. In essence, they're saying, 'look, we own the copyright, so if you want a digital version, you're going to have to come to us'. With all the noise over DRM for music, the rights to written works haven't received much attention.

And while HarperCollins is stating that the move isn't 'antagonistic', it sure looks like a shot across the bow.

9:12 pm on Dec 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Much in the same way music labels/companies 'protect' the rights of their artists...

Syzygy

9:20 pm on Dec 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I haven't read much about anonymosity between authors and publishers. Just the opposite in fact, publishers and authors seem to have a much better flow of communication, which in turn seems to engender less predatorial contracts. Just the opposite of the recording industry.

Record Row seems to have the "we control whether or not you become a star" attitude while publishers seem to acknowledge the fact that the writers are are responsible for drawing fans, and therefore, revenue.

In any event, it is a bit premature to assume that HarperCollins is doing anything but trying to protect their authors.

9:20 pm on Dec 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Under the plan, HarperCollins will hold all the digital copies of its books in a digital warehouse and it will allow companies such as Google, Yahoo and Amazon.com to crawl the server to create an index, Murray said.

"If publishers don't do this, there are going to be too many digital copies of books out there," he said, noting that currently companies like Google, Yahoo and others were all making their own copies, making it difficult for publishers to ensure their authors' copyright is respected.

Psssst! "crawling" and "indexing" means they are making a copy!

What am I missing here?

hunderdown

9:43 pm on Dec 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

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HarperCollins has the files and PERMITS a search engine to index it. They can just as easily shut down access. And they can decide how much of a book they allow to be shown, etc.

This gives them control over content that Google was hell-bent on digitizing, indexing, and controling.

Interesting move on HC's part. I won't be surprised to see other publishers follow suit.

9:51 pm on Dec 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

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It's brilliant - opposed to how the music industry that sat back for years watching Napster, Mesh, Kazaa, etc. grow out of control these guys are taking the bull by the horns right up front and staking their licensing rights instead of sitting back and throwing fist fulls of sweaty cash at lawyers after the fact.
10:32 pm on Dec 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Publishers always had a couple of pretty solid pins underneath them in whatever upcoming legal battles were forming up, but this move virtually cuts Google off at the feet.

Smart. Very smart.

11:10 pm on Dec 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

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For the sake of discussion...

If I want to borrow a book from a digital library will it be free in the same way as it is from a 'bricks and mortar' library?

How does this protect the rights of an author?

Is this 'initiative' less to do with author's rights and more about controlling and eventually revenue streaming future methods of delivery?

Syzygy

3:45 am on Dec 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

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This seems to be mainly a legal move related to the current case.

Google has been touting that by making copies they are helping the consumer (consumer benefit is weighed vs. commercial loss in copyright infringement suits).

Google's argument maybe weakened if the books are already being digitized and manipulated for the consumer benefit by the rights-holders.

hunderdown

4:07 am on Dec 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

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If I want to borrow a book from a digital library will it be free in the same way as it is from a 'bricks and mortar' library?

How does this protect the rights of an author?

I can borrow ebooks from my local library, by signing in on their web site, and downloading one. I can't send the file to anyone else, and it expires after a period of time. As I understand it, the library has purchased a limited number of copies and if they are all "checked out," you have to wait.

In other words, it's handled pretty much as a physical book is. The rights of authors ARE protected in this setup.

4:14 am on Dec 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Baen has been putting freely-downloadable full versions of dozens of books, and free "headers" (the first quarter of a typical book) for most of their recent publications. Eric Flint, one of their authors, claims it increases sales.

Naxos (European classical/folk CD label) has, I believe, ALL of their catalog online in freely-listenable (but possibly reduced-fidelity) versions. Of course, their retail list price for CDs is about a half to a third of the "major" labels. That way, they've had more of MY money over the past few years than any other label.

On the other side of the prudent-wisdom/sheer-lunacy divide, Sony may have done a very good thing for the industry (as well as the consumer) by their asinine copy-protection rootkitting scheme: a brilliant, self-sacrificing object lesson for all!

I think we'll see a lot of publishing companies deciding whether they want to do the millenial equivalent of making car bodies for Cadillac -- or buggy-whip stands for nobody.

4:27 am on Dec 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

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It's brilliant...

Agreed... And while we're thanking Sony... Despite the the questionable way Google has handled their digitizing project, we can thank them for the MSN/Yahoo collaboration, HarperCollins and who knows how many others over the next couple of years.

12:54 pm on Dec 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

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have you guys listend to traingulation, interesting podcasts, talk about google print(err mean books)
8:16 pm on Dec 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

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traingulation? podcasts? what a waste of time when there are BOOKS to READ!

Project Gutenberg is already harvesting Google scans to create freely-redistributable e-texts in ASCII, HTML, and XML format.