In response to the moaning and groaning of book publishers, the world’s favorite search engine announced it won’t be scanning copyrighted books for a while. Last October, Google announced that it had launched its “Google Print" program.

The program entails scanning books, and making their content searchable. For publishers, Google says, it’s a great way to promote their books, even if they are out of print. And for libraries, it’s a great way to allow more people to access their materials.

Not everybody shares the rainbow colored enthusiasm Google always seems to have. It seems that some publishers are upset that Google is scanning their copyrighted content, and putting it online for the world to learn from.

So now the company is taking action.

According to Google’s official blog, it will not scan any copyrighted books until November, giving publishers ample time to tell the search engine that it does not want their books to be scanned.

“Any and all copyright holders – both Google Print partners and non-partners – can tell us which books they’d prefer that we not scan if we find them in a library,‿ wrote Google Print Product Manager Adam M. Smith in the Google blog.

I tend to side with Google on this one. They’re only using small amounts of copyrighted books in their index, and it’s for educational and organizational purposes only. (Google isn’t re-publishing books).

Want to learn a little bit about Google Print? Check it out. View the print search interface or learn about the program.

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All 9 Replies

Google should respect intellectual property and NOT scan anything unless they've been given explicit permission.
Who do they think they are to expect to have a carte blanche to break copyright laws unless told explicitly (and for every title) that they're not supposed to do so?

If I did what Google is doing I'd be dragged into court to a quick and (for me) expensive conviction and rightly so.

Because they're not copying entire books, just portions of content for searching.

Here are the factors for determining if something is under the fair use provision:

1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

2. the nature of the copyrighted work;

3. amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

define "portion"...

If a "portion" is a few phrases or paragraphs out of a book of several hundred pages that might be considered fair use (which btw isn't applicable worldwide), if it means entire chapters it most certainly does not.
Google cannot claim to be able to control the way in which the scanned content will be used so they can't claim it's for "educational purposes" (which requires permission to copy btw, even if that permission is more readily granted than otherwise).
The nature of the copyrighted work is clear, it's a commercial product which is being plagiarised for commercial use of another corporate entity (Google).
The potential market of the book therefore goes down because there will be many people (given that Google will copy and publish without permission those parts of the book that have the most relevant content...) will no longer need to purchase that book.

They're comitting plagiarism on a massive scale, and claiming to have a right to do so.

I think postponing the scanning is a smart move by google. This gives the publishers plenty of time to opt-out their books. Whatever your view as to whether this is technically copyright infringement, for all practical purposes any publish who wishes not to have its books copied will have no trouble excersizing that right.

I believe Danny is wrong with regard to how much they are scanning. I am not positive, but I am fairly sure they are scanning entire books. Each person doing a search would only be able to read a small number of pages, but all the pages are there to be searched. In light of this it is questionable whether this is covered by Fair Use.

That said, I don't think google has anything to worry about. They have made a calculation, which is as follows. Any publisher unhappy with google's scanning can either chose to sue google, or have google not scan their books. The former would be very expensive, while the latter would solve the problem for almost nothing. This is why google is giving the publishers ample time to object, so that none of them see any reason to sue.

Scanning entire books is definitely NOT fair use, and is indeed what Google is doing.
If they scanned only the table of contents and/or the index for example (and maybe the first paragraph of each chapter) I doubt any publisher would object.

It's past time Google is put in its place. They're ever more behaving like they're above the law everywhere.
While small publishers will cave in under Google's pressure and give up the copyrights to their work (which effectively puts that work in the public domain and thus makes copyright violations on that work unenforcable anywhere) large ones won't be so easily pushed over.
I hope to see some big lawsuits with Google forced to pay millions if not billions in damages.
If that brings down the company so much the better.

Jwenting, while you may be technically correct that it is illegal, you seem to be ignoring the fact that google does allow publisher's to opt their books out. What big publisher would waste money on a law suite when it could simply send google a list of its books? Its also not the same as being in the public domain, because google only allows users to read a small number of pages. It probobly generates more sales than it prevents. Sure, publisher's have a right not to have their books scanned, but is it really such a big deal?

Opt out is not an option.
They'd have to opt out for each title they ever released and ever plan to release individually in Google's scheme.
That's just not feasible for large publishing houses with tens of thousands of titles in print (thing Thor, AW, Reed Elsevier, etc.), and even worse for publishers of magazines which would have to opt out for every single issue they release separately.

I'd have no trouble with an opt IN scheme, but of course that's not in the interest of Google as they'll be unable to claim that they never got an opt out letter in the correct form from a publisher...

And yes, it's a BIG deal. As publishers ever more release their own eBook services (at a price), Google is effectively destroying their business by pirating their books and making them available for free online.
What's next, Google putting all commercially available software online for free download unless the publisher explicitly opts out for that title?
After all, you CAN opt out so it's not really illegal is it?
And yes, that's exactly the same thing.

But Google isn't putting them online for free. You are only allowed to read a very limited number of pages. This is not a replacement for buying the (e)book. And really, I would think any large publisher would have decent records of their published books. It would be trivial to make a list and send it over to google. Certainly easier than suing them.

One shouldn't have to "opt-out" of a scheme that violates copyright. I've published, and sold material to textbook publishers. In each case, ALL RIGHTS revert back to the author upon publication, at least in the contracts I've signed. If someone wants to re-publish my work, I have to give them "express consent". So in that case, it isn't even up to the publisher to opt-in or opt-out, it's up to the author.

What Google is doing is asserting that they already have the right to scan entire works, and publish whatever portions of them they like, FOR PROFIT (don't tell me you think that the AdWords ads won't be listed on your "search results" page), and that they have that right unless the author and/or publisher gives them an "express denial", via their opt-out procedure.

Sorry, it doesn't work that way, and if it takes a lawsuit to prove it, then I'm fully on the side of the publishers on this one.

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